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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Open Communication Is a Good Way to Help Kids Deal with Peer Pressure

Last night I dreamed about zombies. Well, I think they were zombies. They all seemed to shuffle along with that vacant yet menacing stare, like in all those classic movies about the undead.

These zombies were all wearing the same clothes – skinny jeans, Hollister sweatshirts and Uggs. And they all had pin-straight, flat ironed hair. It was then I realized the truth. They weren’t after my brain, they were after my debit card!

Seriously though, I was recently at my kids’ school, and as I watched the students passing by I was struck by how much alike they were all dressed. I know that middle school is a time for trying to fit in, but it just amazed me how completely alike they were.

It seemed like nearly every student was wearing some sort of advertisement for Hollister, my kids included. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of Hollister, it’s that store you pass in the mall with the really loud music and the cloud of perfume hanging over it. It’s actually a brilliant marketing maneuver because as a parent, you will buy ANYTHING to get out of there. But I digress in my oldness…

I know this isn’t a new phenomenon. Back in the day, we had Izod and Benneton and even parachute pants, and I know every other generation has had their styles and crazy clothes.

I don’t remember everyone dressing so completely alike though, but maybe my memory is slipping. It has been “like 60 years,” as my daughter says.  

I do have to wonder if it’s getting harder to keep our kids looking “cool,” what with the economy being in such tough shape.

The problem with peer pressure, though, isn’t the clothes or the hairstyles. Those come and go. As long as they maintain at least some level of propriety for school then I am all for self-expression (except there isn’t really any because everyone is dressed the same).

The problem comes when peer pressure leads to destructive or dangerous behavior. That’s the part that keeps me up at night as I think about my kids starting high school next year. It is really tough to be a teen sometimes, and we don’t always make the best decisions at that age.

I guess there is no way to guarantee your child’s safety, and as my mom always said, “Don’t ever say my kid wouldn’t do that, because you just never know.”

So far my strategy has been open communication and keeping the kids involved in positive, time-consuming activities. Whether or not this will continue to work for me over the next few years, I just don’t know. Until then I will just keep talking to my kids, and holding my breath.

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