"Social Belonging, A Challenge"
Teenagers thrive to be accepted and feel a sense of belonging just to feel good about themselves. This belonging is simply to be called a friend, be complimented or as easy as being spoken to in the hallway at school. Those who they spend most of their time with are the ones they gain much of their identity from. Identity could be a change in clothing, the way they walk, the dialect used in conversation, isolation or even a shift in interest to list a few. Now, it would be immature to only think this happens at school. This can take place from social settings or hanging out, church groups, a friend’s house or even a family members house. No matter where they are, are we aware of the atmosphere they are encountering. I’m not a birth mother, but I have mentored some teens and even some parents with changes their youth have that suddenly are a shock to them. What should be considered with our young people as they grow physically, develop mentally and begin to make critical decisions?
Peer pressure is very real and it isn’t always bad peer pressure. Teenagers who are associated with positive groups, are more easily to resist the negative or things that may bring some sort of doubt. Get to know your teens social circle, don’t always just say “yeah you can go” or “yeah they can come pick you up”, or just drop them off. Engage your teen’s friends! Have them in you space or even volunteer at their functions when the church or school ask.
The challenges are wanting to trust and allow your child to grow; yet you feel yourself losing your connectivity with the child and they begin to misbehave, be disrespectful or grades begin to drop. No one wants their child to be talked about or bullied because of a fear of not belonging and seeing where their value lies. Therefore, it’s so vital to be engaged enough to have a grasp of the company your teen is keeping and monitoring if the influence is good or bad on them. Positive groups will help to increase the confidence and comfort level with the teen.
Positive influence is the best influence and you will have a better handle of which relationships are worth engaging for your child. Most teens have the thought of suicide because they don’t feel like they belong or are cool enough. The teen to teen influence is high. They will evaluate themselves based off the individual they see getting the most attention of the one that seems to be talked about and cool all the time.
Although, families tend to look outside of the home for the changes their teen may be encountering; it is important to be aware, communicate often and allow them to articulate whatever they desire freely. Family is the root. If the family foundation if solid; whenever a question crosses their mind whether it be of uncertainty and decision making or simply just to ask a question; do we have that safe space that allows the teen to just lay every good, bad or indifferent thought there? Is every encounter a delegation or conversation?
Social belonging is the greatest factor of influence for teens. Negative vibes will lead to a search of belonging in most places that are unhealthy. These unhealthy areas could be at school, the church, extracurricular activities and even through social media. Teens seek affection, attention and want some authority to a certain extent; always, always, always listen and empathize.