Parental Peer Pressure

-Joellen Monson

It's the beginning of another new school year and your children are sure to expand their world by making friends with a few more kids. This will mean more play dates, birthday parties and in some cases car pooling. Have you ever considered what the new etiquette is for how to handle these new additions to your family's social circle? As our children begin to grow up and way from us, what is the right way to go about learning about who's with your child and how well you should know them?

We've all had the experience of telling our children to think for themselves and don't follow what everyone else is doing. Even if you may have promised yourself you would never utter the words, "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?" - haven't you found yourself on occasion falling back on that classic? But just how well are we practicing what we preach? Have you ever been tempted to think, "Well, none of the other parents seem to be concerned about not having more details so I guess I shouldn't either."? Let's turn the focus onto ourselves for a moment. What would you do if your 5 year old were invited to a birthday party in the first few weeks school, at an unfamiliar location, by a family you'd never met - could she go? If your 7 year old came home with a newly yanked tooth, saying the other kids said the tooth fairy gives $10 a tooth - would you fork over the loot? How about the 10 year old who says his new friend's 17 year old brother will drive them home from  practice at 7 p.m. on an icy January evening-how would you react?

At Parentworks.com, we recommend relying on the old adage "When in doubt - Don't". If you are unsure of a situation for your child, trust your own instincts and don't allow yourself to be swayed by other parent's (subtle or not too subtle) pressures to go along. Consider how you would feel if you didn't trust yourself and something happened to your child. No one knows your child or what's best for them better than you. No matter how much pleading your child does, have confidence in your decision.

Complicating matters though is the fact that as children get older they can be given increasing doses of responsibilities and this means time away from us and our supervision. To assist in some of your decision making, read up on any child development books that are for older children (though they can be difficult to find) but see what types of responsibilities are developmentally appropriate for each age. Sit down with friends whose parenting you trust and who may have gone through these stages already. Never be afraid to ask questions to find out specific details about any new situation you will be considering for your child. An added benefit from all this is that you will be showing an excellent example for your child about forming your own opinion and how to stand up for yourself despite what someone else thinks.

So how does one go about reaching out to another family in spite of hectic schedules, while overcoming distances between homes, or your feelings of uncertainty? The most important tool available to you is still that old fashioned technique of just getting to know the parents of the children who your child wants to spend time socializing.

So here are some things you can do:

  • Call up the new parents and introducing your self. Find out a little about them and share a little about yourself - How many kids do you have? Did you grow up around here? Our family really enjoys...
  • When dropping off or picking up your child, always be a "good date" and don't just drop the kids at the curb as you honk and drive off. Go up to the door and speak to the parent at home (if there isn't one, that should tell you something too).
  • Be sure and spend some time with the children - talk to them when driving car pool or when their having a snack at your house.
  • By talking to your children and their friends, it lays a wonderful groundwork for when their older and they really need someone who they can trust and confide.

Once you know a little more about shared values and interests you can start to relax and feel better about your child spending time with people you know you can trust with the responsibility of looking out for your precious loved ones. Parenting never stops, we just let go and begin to share it with others.