Choosing Friends Wisely – Teaching Your Teen the Importance of Good Company
As your child begins to mature into a teenager, parenting can suddenly bring with a whole heap of new challenges. When your child was younger, you will probably have had a certain amount of control over where they went and what they did with their friends. The biggest decisions to deal with may have been when the next playdate will be and as their parent, you will still have been the driving force in your child’s development. However, when the teenage years hit, friendships can take centre stage at the reins of your child’s social life.
Many parents worry about the friends that their child socialises with. Whilst we hope that our children will befriend people who have the same morals and goals, it is inevitable that each teenager will meet people who don’t share a way of thinking that we may necessarily agree with.
Friendships and Challenges.
Peer pressure starts at a young age – from simple games in the playground (“go on, have a go.”) to pressure to have the latest trainers or games. Many younger children actually manage to avoid giving into peer pressure as they are more dependent upon their parent’s permission and guidance. However when a child is a teenager, they inevitably will have more independence in their thoughts and actions – and also in their social activities.
As teenagers, life will throw at them new choices and challenges that can seem exciting and rebellious. Smoking, alcohol, dating and drugs can be enticing when ‘everyone is doing it’ and they don’t want to be the one left out. These distractions and dangers can also be exciting for the child who has not been pre-warned about these challenges or who struggles with feelings around identity.
Learn to Educate your Child – Before Someone Else Does
The crux of the matter is this: You can’t pick and choose your teenager’s friends. Nor can you keep them in 24-7 and not let them explore the world. Part of good parenting is enabling them to make their own choices and to explore and experience life.
What you can do and what is particularly important for the Muslim family living in the West, is to equip them with the correct knowledge and guidance to make sensible, safe choices.
A confident child is far less likely to give way to peer pressure. By confident, we don’t mean one who is eager to get up on stage and perform. The type of confidence needed is where a child has the confidence to say no – even if that means they may end up spending time alone.
Teach them early they do not have to do anything they do not want to – they are in control. Get them into the habit of thinking before they act. Key phrases and questions to teach can include “Is this a good idea?”, “What could happen if I do this?”, “Would my parents be ok with me doing this? And ultimately “Is this halaal – or haraam?”
Teach your child a real understanding of reward and punishment. Let them know that Allaah is aware of all that we do. Even if they think they can get away with hiding something from you, there is no hiding from Allaah. Help them to understand that every choice they make can earn them reward or punishment in the Hereafter. Remind them of the angels on their shoulders recording every action.
A child with conscience is far less likely to be involved in things that they should not. Having shame for a sin is a step towards repentance and forgiveness. For the teenager with no shame, the one who openly sins in front of others, it is a slippery slope to sin that becomes a habit which they deem acceptable. Where they may have done something for show initially, when it is not addressed, it can lead to further sin. Teach your child to have shame in front of others, to learn respect, cover their modesty and to remember always Allaah.
In addition to the above reminders, one of the best things you can do as a parent is to teach your child that friends may not always act as friends. That is, just because someone acts like a friend, does not mean that they may have your best interests at heart. Help them to understand that a true friend will always want the best for them.
Safeguard Their Cyberspace.
Standing back and watching your teenager go out into the world, not knowing who they are mixing with, is a worry. However, being aware of who they communicate with when at home is also important. In today’s society, social media is a huge influence so it is imperative to have the passwords to your teenager’s social media accounts and to conduct random spot checks. Make sure that they – and you – are aware about the importance of online safety.
Protect and Guide.
Unfortunately, it is vital that as parents we also face up the realities of bullying – both online and in everyday life. Peer pressure, particularly for the one who does not bow to it, can result in teasing, isolation and harm. Try to develop a relationship where you are someone they can come and talk to. Look for sudden changes in behaviour that may seem out of place and let them know that you will always be there for them – no matter what.
To help you navigate the teenage years, the Ummah Stars App has a dedicated section addressing this subject. Take advantage of stories that will capture the minds of even the most reluctant teenager. Our content will help instil in them a sense of confidence as a Muslim, that will help them to work through personal obstacles. Try the app for free today.