At Sundance Canyon Academy, we talk to many parents who are worried about the level of influence that other kids can have on their son. Many of our students have gotten into trouble with their friends back home and need to learn to act independently. Other students don’t have friends at home and struggle with depression and social isolation. We are writing on this topic today to help parents understand the power of peer influence and how to encourage positive friendships.
The teenage years are a unique period in life. When kids are still little, family is their world. Sure, they want to play with friends and classmates, but they want their parents’ approval. They want to know that you’re proud of them and that you love them. If they have older siblings, they want to tag along and be just like their older brother or sister.
Things start to change when puberty hits. As hormones kick in, little kids start growing into adults. The teen years are an awkward in-between period, and they’re awkward both inside and out. Just as their bodies are changing, so are their emotions. Peer approval becomes the driving force for most teens, and teenagers make many decisions based on peer influence.
The role of teenage friendships
It should come as no shock that your son’s friends can play a huge role in his life. If your son has a positive group of friends, they can help him make positive life choices. Negative friends can have the exact opposite effect. They might influence him to make poor choices that come with serious consequences.
Having zero friends can also be a major problem for teenagers. Teens need to have friends, and they can feel incredibly lonely without them. During the teen years, kids look to their peers for acceptance. If no one wants to be their friend, they can feel rejected and alone. So, your son needs to have some positive friends in his life.
Helping your teen manage peer influence
While navigating their teen years, kids still look to their parents for guidance. Even though your son might act like he doesn’t care what you think, he does still want to know that you love him. However, he will also want to know that his friends accept him. As a parent, it’s important to help your teen manage peer influence and learn to act on his own.
Having a sense of self
Teens want to have friends, but they also need to know how to stand up for their beliefs. There will always be people in their lives who will use them or try to influence their behavior. The teenage years are a time to develop a sense of self and learn when to follow peer influence and when to ignore it.
Have conversations with your son about who he is as a person. It might be tough for him to separate his identity from his friends, but he needs to learn how to think that way. This will help him choose friends who can help him become a better person and say no to friends who would drag him down.
Being lonely is always rough, but it’s a little easier when you have a strong sense of self. When teens base their self-worth on someone else’s approval, being alone equates to being worthless. When teens feel confident in who they are, they might still be lonely, but they know their value as a person.
Making positive friends
Sometimes, teens have to be purposeful about finding positive friends. If the kids in your son’s class aren’t quality friend material, you may need to help him look elsewhere. Try to find extracurricular activities in a supportive environment to meet new people. Teens involved in positive activities with a strong peer group are more likely to make better choices with their friends.
If your son is struggling to make friends or is making the wrong friends, enlist others to help. Get other supportive adults in his life to step in and have conversations with him. Talk to his guidance counselor at school to check in with him as well. Teens can sometimes turn a deaf ear to their parents. It can be helpful to have another respected adult say the same things that you’re saying.
For teens battling depression or social anxiety, therapy can have positive results. When teenagers feel depressed or anxious, they don’t always feel comfortable confiding in their parents about it. The teen years are already a sea of new emotions, and they don’t always know how to handle them. Talking to a professional therapist can help teens sort through their emotions and learn to manage them.
Contact us for more information if you are worried about your son’s mental health or overall well-being due to peer influence. For many teens, attending a therapeutic boarding school for troubled boys can be beneficial.
Call us at 866-640-1899 to determine if our school is right for your son.