Peer Pressure and Expectation 

So this week is the full return of schools, how have all your young people felt this morning? 

I expected a struggle to get up this morning because mine did not get to sleep until 1am! 

To my surprise they were awake before the alarm. I asked them if they were tired and they said yes but more nervous than tired. 

They couldn’t have breakfast because they felt too nervous, and I could hear myself saying that having fuel to get you through the day will help you more. Alas they left for school on empty stomachs.

The worry for them as to how their first day will go is clearly palpable. How we spend so much time worrying for them?

We remember school right? It can be such a tough environment to be in. Things have definitely changed but there are so many things now that our children have to consider that we didn’t.

The past year has been a tough one for our children and young people. They had to adapt to home-schooling, which looked different in every home. Some people could thrive in the home learning environment where others really struggled.

Some households had enough devices for the amount of children, others had to work out a system that gave equal time on devices.

They had to learn how to be self-directed in their learning, which some people really did enjoy, others really struggled with.

What did the home-schooling look like in your household?

Did your teens and tweens take to it, or really struggle?

Whichever it was like in your house it is safe to say, the kids have coped so well with the adjustments and the changes they have had to endure. They have learned how to enjoy their own company, how to enjoy the outdoors a little more and even for some learned how to be part of the family a little more (even if they do argue more).

The worry now is the notion that our children need to “CATCH UP”. My children challenge this concept all the time saying what do I need to catch up on?

They did work through the pandemic, my eldest is convinced its more than she would ordinarily do in a day at school.

It feels like we are adding pressure on our children and young people by the notion of “catching up” as though the past year’s work meant nothing and if so, did we put them under unnecessary pressure during the lockdown then by holding the pretence that the work they were made to do had value?

We as parents felt the pressure of trying to be a teacher as well as all the other roles we partake in a day of raising our children. How often did we tell ourselves that we could not do our young persons work, how often did we feel like we were failing them, or hold guilt that we couldn’t cope with the pressure of schooling them so formally?

Our children are off to school with so much uncertainty surrounding them, with exams and the structure that will take, with some Covid restrictions still in place but with the hope they are removed, with the discussion on the table that they might be offered the vaccine as part of the school health programmes, and whilst none of this is confirmed…….Our young people are still talking about all of it to each other.

Its not all bad though……

How many of our young people were excited just at the prospect of a routine coming back? The simple task of organising your calendar has been taken away this past two years so I know my house welcomed some version of routine back, and that is what school is for them. The constant.

How many of our young people were excited just to be seeing friends again? School offers the opportunity to be with friends and chat, without the worry of breaking covid rules, or counting how many people is safe to hang out with.

This for me as a parent presents worry and happiness in equal measure. Last week my daughter spoke of the peer pressure that our teens experience. She spoke of her worry because friendships and relationships have changed so much during lockdown that they are having to relearn socialisation skills.

How well do we know our teens and tweens?

Is your Teen strong minded?

Are they a people Pleaser?

Are they less sure after the Lockdown?

Or Have they grown in confidence over the lockdown?

I have two very different children in High School. One is lacking in self confidence and often struggles to express how she feels or talk about worries. The other is very self-confident and can express her emotions and talk about her thoughts etc. Now my one who lacks in self confidence is a social butterfly (I know its such a paradox). She has lots of friends. My other daughter, the self-confident one…..she struggles socially, she has little to no friends.

Now when I consider this from the bigger picture and understanding frame, my self-assured daughter cant be pressured into anything. She knows her own mind and will express it (Often loudly) therefore is often cast out of friendship groups.

My younger daughter is a people pleaser, she will often do what her friends want, even to her own detriment therefore is seen as kind and giving among her peers. Whilst this has its benefits, the downside can be that she really struggles to set boundaries with them.

So what are boundaries for our young people?  

Boundaries are difficult for most people and its safe to say we have all struggled with setting them at one point in our lives. So its no wonder our young people need support in setting them, they have so much going on just trying to figure out who they are!

How can we help them discover their own boundaries and stick to them?

Whilst boundaries are subjective, and we each have our own idea of what should be a boundary, they are very important to all of us. Why are boundaries important? It’s a fundamental part of growing up that helps us to develop meaningful friendships and relationships that are respectful, supportive and healthy.

Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable as it forces us to stand up for ourselves and draw lines in the sand. We can often avoid situations where we might not like the outcome, even as adults we often reject the uncomfortable stuff.

So here are some tips in helping your teen set their boundaries that will support them to go on and have healthy and supportive relationships.

  • Modelling. No matter what you sat they will follow your lead more than what you say to them. It’s what they know, and they will imitate from the sources they know and trust. That’s you!
  • Help them identify their emotions. Naming their emotions is challenging but by naming them and understanding how people are making them feel it’s the first step in being able to look at what boundaries they would like to set in order to stop those feelings.
  • Teach your teen to trust their own gut. Learning to trust your intuition is such an important tool in being able to set boundaries. So support your teen when they say something doesn’t feel right, support them when others say they are being over dramatic etc, validate their experience and their feelings about a situation.
  • Support them in identifying unacceptable behaviours. Modelling healthy relationships here is super important but also for them, its important to talk to them about things they do not like, situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Address the importance of Digital boundaries too. We have become conditioned into expecting poor behaviour and mean communication through social media that when we experience it, we brush it off, but it still hurts. So, its important that our young people have healthy boundaries and can call out unacceptable behaviour even on social media.
  • Support them with key phrases that can help them diffuse a situation. This one can be tricky because we all respond to situations differently. Its best to support them in a way that they feel they can cope with and that feels like it’s their words. So, for example if they want to tell someone to stop doing something because they don’t like it, how would they say that?
  • Allow them to practice at home. Now our teens are always doing this with us, testing boundaries and pushing to see what they can push on. So again, modelling is super, super important here. Also offer the chance to role play a friendship conversation with you.
  • Explain that friendships have limits and that not all friendships will last. We grow as people and sometimes that means growing apart.
  • Explain the risks of not setting boundaries and why it is so important. Even share some of your own examples of poor boundary setting and healthy boundary setting.

Boundary setting is a journey for everyone, its so important though that we speak about boundaries when it comes to peer pressure. So this week I would like to invite you to chat about boundaries, chat about what a good friend looks and feels like. What does good boundaries look and sound like with social media and how do we learn to trust ourselves?