It’s been proven by scientific researches and simply by the life experience that we all need to belong somewhere or to someone. This feeling of “belonging” and “fitting” is inborn because every human on earth needs to be connected with others, to be by the side of those, who he shares attitudes, interests, and circumstances with.
Developing friendships and other kinds of relationships is a healthy and essential part of growing up. Relationships and cooperation help one first of all get to know other people and become familiar with their inner peculiarities, differences and similarities as well as cognize and understand oneself.
Since the early 1990s there has been increasing interest in the consequences of children’s peer relationships for their future social, cognitive and behavioral development, as well as the forming of their morals, values and social understanding. Children and adults alike are influenced by their peers, but children who are still in the process of developing are more exposed to negative influences. In early childhood the values of a future grown-up person start developing and that is why it is so important for a child to be around the right people.
During childhood the peer friends usually matter as much to a child as his family or even more. A child cares about what his friends say and do, what they think about him, the way he looks, his habits, his toys, what they like and dislike – their opinions, feelings and ideas are important to him. While from the first glance it may look like children are just playing, in reality the relationships kids form with their peers from the young age throughout the adolescence exert enormous influence on their adult lives – whether fostering positive feelings through friendship, or contributing to school-college-adjustment and grownup problems through mobbing and rejection.
The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is even more vital during the years of middle and late childhood than for other periods in life. During these years, children spend more time with their peers and without parental supervision. With peers children can be connected and dependent or independent, spending much time with one particular group of friends a child starts changing and that is the time when the issue of the peer pressure arrives. Peer pressure can be positive or negative but in both cases it is a very strong force in the formatting of the child’s personality that will affect his future life.
At its best, peer pressure can mobilize the child’s energy, motivate him/her for success and achievements, make the child more ambitious and competitive, encourage the child to conform to healthy behavioral habits and conduct etc. Peers can and definitely do act as positive role models, the most important thing is to become a member of a decent group of people and not clique with the people who can help the child develop harmful habits and low morals.
However a negative peer influence that is usually very powerful can motivate a teen to make bad choices and get engaged in behavior that his family values might otherwise reject. Some children may even risk being grounded, getting in trouble at school, losing their parents’ faith, or even facing the jail, just to fit in the group of peers that they are looking up to. Sometimes, children even in the early childhood will change the way they dress, act their friends, give up their values and morals or create new ones, depending on the people they spend time with. And this is absolutely normal and natural the only problem is not to cross the red line that is a very complicated task.
I’m certain that parents should definitely take a proactive position in the child’s social life and that does not mean interfering with it, it just means helping the child out by discussing what friendships and fiends are. Parents can help their children to make good decisions about friendships and people by teaching them early about what being a good, true, faithful friend means, thus giving them some criteria for selection the friends.
However even though it is vital to participate in the life of your child and help him/her make the right choices when it comes to choosing friends, parents should not forget that the final decision should always be made by the child because by building his relationships with peers the he is building his unique personality and values and although there are a lot of barriers and obstacles on the way the child should remove them all himself.
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