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Choose Friends Wisely

by Ronald A. Rowe | April 30th, 2015 | Social, Tweens

tween boy (400x400)The Tweenage years are a crucial time of social development.  10-12 year olds are discovering the broader world outside and struggle to find their place in it.  Your child will have to make a number of choices concerning their social circles and status during the Jr. High years.  And there are most definitely right and wrong choices.  The difficult job of the parent of a Tween is to strike the right balance between allowing your child the freedom to chart his/her own course and offering the guidance s/he needs to choose wisely.

Do not underestimate the importance of participating in extracurricular activities.  Grouping together with peers of common interest is a big part of social development in pre-teens.  Neglecting the opportunity to join such a group leaves a vacuum in your child’s life that will leave a dangerous opening for less desirable activities and influences to creep in.  Studies have shown that activities like band are highly correlated with later academic success in high school.  Sports programs inherently build camaraderie between participants.  Virtually any school-sanctioned grouping will result in the development of appropriate social skills – IF the program is a proper fit for your child.

The one way that sanctioned extra-curricular activities can do more harm than good is when parents push their children into a program that simply isn’t right for the child.  You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole and you can’t push a disinterested, uncoordinated, short, slow 12 year old onto a competitive basketball team.  The result will be harmful to your child’s self-esteem and will not do any favors to his/her social development, either.  Always keep in mind that your children are not exact copies of you, nor do they exist to realize your unfulfilled high school dreams.  It is imperative that you allow your child to find the extracurricular activities to which they are properly suited and in which they are interested.

You cannot assume that your child has the skills and insight necessary to make wise choices when it comes to picking friends.  I’ve covered this in the past but it bears repeating here.  The attributes that your 10-year old admires in his/her peers are not necessarily positive ones.  Talk to your Tween about the things that make a good friend.  Encourage your child to be a room changer, the kind of person who sets the tone rather than allowing the mood of the room to change them.  If your son or daughter can learn this one core trait, it will serve him/her well in middle school, high school, college, and beyond into the real world.

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