When Mean Girls Play: Facing Peer Pressure Early
I remember so clearly the teen years. The epitome of being “fly” was having the latest hairstyle and clothes – just like my friends. Individuality was not the hot thing. It was all about blending in. Now that I’m wiser, I realize that the feeling of wanting to fit in and conform was what is known today as “peer pressure.” So I was more than ready to face this parenting battle in about 8-10 years when my 5 year old hit the teen years.
Well, the surprise was on me! During a parent-teacher conference meeting last year, my daughter’s teacher shared that she was concerned about my daughter succumbing to peer pressure. As my mouth hung open with surprise, the teacher shared that she’d noticed that my daughter and several other children were in a mean girl “clique” that was going down a slippery slope of negative activities on the playground. My 5 year old and her crew were already knee-deep in the world of peer pressure.
After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I asked the teacher if this is unusual. She noted as a teacher she’d seen more and more children battling with both peer pressure and bullying at younger and younger ages. I later learned that bullying is on the rise in schools for all ages.* But the teacher also assured me that there were several things that I could do as a parent to help my child. She encouraged me to take these three steps:
1-Talk to my child about her individuality and what makes her special. For many children hearing their parents tell them that they are special and loved for who they are helps them battle the pressures that they face every day at school.
2-Emphasize the importance of good decision making.
Kindergarteners and preschoolers often don’t understand the consequences of their actions. Parents can help them connect the dots by talking through the decision making process and helping them make decisions.
3-Have an open door policy with my child. Letting your child know that you are always available to talk out issues is important. In fact, when I told my daughter that she could always talk to me about anything that bothered her I was amazed at the dialogue we had. Little children face stress and need a listening ear as much as we do.
For the rest of the school year and over the summer, I spent time helping my daughter build her self-esteem and prepare for the pressures she would face during the next school year. I read a study that showed that girls’ self-esteem peaks at age 9, then takes a big nose-dive.** I don’t want that to be my daughter’s story!
Things have been good so far this school year. I know with my help, she’ll be strong enough to face increased peer pressure as she grows older.
Mommies – have your children battled with peer pressure? How have you helped them overcome it?
Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, communications strategist and blogger focusing on philanthropy and empowering women. Learn more about her on her blog www.bahamamommyinc.com .