The first time you hold your child in your arms, you make promises to love, protect and always be there to guide them. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, things such as school force us to release our little ones for a while and put them in the care of teachers who must oversee several kids at once. Suddenly, our precious bundle-faces find that Mum or Dad isn't always there to make all the decisions any more. Challenges face our children in the form of peer pressure, drugs, sex and bullying.
Clinical psychologist and author Dr John Duffy says: "Parents do need to talk with their kids about bullying, sex and peer pressure. Many parents I've worked with over the years will provide time for a lecture, often a one-time-only lecture. But they will often fail to provide time for ongoing discussion of these topics, which is what children really need. They need to know that we as parents are available to them as guides should they need help navigating the world of peer pressure. I work with teens and tweens. They are at particular risk for peer pressure to participate in sexual activity, drink or smoke. They need parents who can help them in real time. The stronger the connection between parent and child the likelier a parent's word will be heeded and the likelier a parent's limits will be respected and honoured."
When you have that all-important conversation, Dr Fran Walfish, a child and family therapist based in the US, recommends that the most important thing your child or teen needs on their first day of school is to not feel lonely or isolated. "It's very important before that first day of school to have encouraged and facilitated play dates and an end-of-summer party or get-together for your kids with one or more friends. Talk with your kids about what it takes to be a good friend. Include what feels comfortable and what doesn't. Most kids know right from wrong. Teach your kids to listen to their internal voice and follow their intuition, not the crowd. I would wait to discuss sex, cyber-bullying and other issues so as not to bombard and overwhelm your child before school starts. Too much talk can raise anxiety when you're goal is to try and reduce it instead," she says.
Set a good example
Keeping the lines of communication open is vital. Discuss his or her experiences and do not judge. Learn to listen to your child; don't just lecture them and assume they will do only what you've told them. Lead by example; it's hard to persuade a child not to drink while you're knocking back a frosty mug of beer.
Make sure you know what television shows and movies your child is watching and talk with them about the many values portrayed. "I would position it more as ‘making good choices' versus ‘peer pressure,' if your kid makes good choices throughout life, he/she is setting himself/herself up for success," advises Amy Kossoff Smith, the founder of The MomTini Lounge, an online community devoted to the business of motherhood. "I would advocate a sit down before school to talk about your expectations and in that context, say that there will be many opportunities to decide what is best for him/her and that you hope he/she will come to you for advice when needed, especially when presented with ideas that may not lead to a favourable outcome."
Dare to commit
Worldwide, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), aims to give children the life skills they need to avoid drugs, gangs and violence.
Tim Shoemaker, an officer at DARE says, "The most important advice for parents is to inspire commitment. Serious commitment and dedication are the only things capable of reliably defeating peer pressure in the majority of difficult situations."