Think about it: your kids will live in a world populated by their peers. It’s their peers they must connect with. So eventually they will move beyond the family sphere and make their own families and their own lives.
In the meantime, though, there can be trouble. In the gap between childish connections with family and adult connections with peers, kids can fall into peer connections that are childish and not adult at all. They can trade in the guidance of Mom and Dad for the influence of bad companions. How can you guide your kid through the dangerous gap between his childhood family and his adult future?
Of course, guidance starts long before your kid hits his teens. Knowing right from wrong is built over a long time. Ideally, you want this pretty much internalized by age 12. If your teen still has an angel and a devil arguing on his shoulders when he’s old enough to drive, you, he and the rest of society are in trouble.
But that’s water under the bridge. If your kid is a teenager already, then be sure to invite his friends in and let them hang out some, so you can size them up. This doesn’t mean, though, that you become just another pal. Keep the lines of communication open, but also be ready to draw the line on what can be done in your home and what can’t.
Help your own kid by helping the kids he brings by. Be a role model and a reliable adult. Teens are well aware of how dangerous the neighborhood can be. Provide safety by providing structure and a vision of what being an adult looks like.
There will be lapses. But outgrowing you is the last step in your child’s development. Make it happen.
See if you can fill in the blanks. If you can’t, it’s time to find out the answers, in a nice way of course.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
* Who is your child’s “best friend”?
* Which kids does your child spend the most time with?
* Where do these kids live? Are they nearby or a distance away?
* Is your child a member of some clique or group?
* What do your child and his friends do for fun?
* What is the riskiest thing your child and his friends do?
* On a Saturday night, where are your child and his friends?
* How often do your child and his friends attend school? Are his friends often absent or tardy?