View Full Version : "Hold on to Your Kids"
02-12-2008, 07:55 AM
Dr. Bradley, I'm wondering if you're familiar with this book by Gordon Neufeld. I'm wondering if you share his view that a great deal of teens' craze is related to peer-orientation. I have a 13-year-old whose social life recently came alive - it's very exciting for him. We enjoy his friends and celebrate his independence, but when he's in this peer-focused zone, he totally loses what was very recently a lovely connection with his siblings and us, his parents. He used to be able to move back and forth from peer socializing to family time, and now he just resents us for our limits and finds us boring. I'd love suggestions for maintaining a connection with him while also giving him the freedom to explore his new friendships.
02-12-2008, 10:14 AM
I think that Dr. Neufeld's work is very important for us parents but, as with all advice, theory and research, we need to be careful to tailor these things to the situations of our individual kids. For example I don't think that relationships with parents and with peers need be mutually exclusive or seen as in competition, but that they work best as an overall balance that ebbs and flows as the child progresses through adolescence. I also don't believe that most peer influence is bad, although that's the general perception. A tremendous amount of learning goes on in those peer relationships that is vital to overall growth.
So what to do? First, take a look at those peers (and their families) to decide if you want your child spending more or less time with them, and then tailor your approach accordingly. If they look like trouble, discourage “away” time with them and encourage “in our home” hang-out time where you give them their own space in your house where you leave them alone for the most part. Second, find ways to connect with the parents of those peers to build a safety network around his group and to foster multi-family gatherings. Third, take your son out for a coffee and tell him that you know that he needs his independence but that you guys love and miss him. Try to not "place limits" on his peer time if you can but rather ask if he could commit to some regular family time in return for your giving him more freedom. Make that family time centered around things he likes to do, but always design in “hang-out and chat” spaces.
Then sit back, do your safety monitoring, and wait it out. Parents who maintain good respect-based relationships with their teens almost always have those kids return to a better peer/parent time balance after their initial immersion into their peer world IF those parents keep offering hugs and coffee (not nagging or whining) at every opportunity. Remember that while you can lose power to those peers for a bit, respect-based parents still hold the upper hand in shaping the long-term development of their children.
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