Many teens go to great lengths to fit in and not appear nerdy. I remember the time when puffing on a cigarette was cool and a means of “fitting in”. Those times have changed dramatically. Today we see the smart kids who dumb down their intelligence because they don’t want to be labeled a “nerd,” or “teacher’s pet” or the teen having oral sex to fit in. What is making our children feel so out of place? Are there ways for youngsters to be themselves, still have friends, and not sacrifice their values?
Parents, Develop Your Child’s Survival Skills
It’s all about survival. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it”. Children are natural skeptics. They are always debating, and that applies to their beliefs about Jesus also. I remember asking my mother all types of question about the Bible, just so I could catch her in an area she couldn’t explain. I was welcoming debate. Although my motives were tainted, I was still learning about the Bible and building my relationship with God. Proverbs 22:6 says to “teach” our children. Your personal experiences may help your child better deal with their peers. If there was ever a time you felt like you didn’t fit in growing up, share that experience with them. Most adults still have some feelings of inadequacy in our lives today. We can relate!
When teenagers are around new people or people they’re not comfortable being around, they may experience all kinds of feelings. Internally they may feel fear, insecurity or even jealousy. But their external appearance is relaxed, confident, or even become the life of the party! Our children need emotional security. They need a safe haven, where they can fully express themselves without being judged. In each of us, there is a strong emotional need to feel acceptance or belonging. This need can become so strong, that it distorts your logic and makes you act opposite of what you actually feel. Provide that outlet for your child, so they’ll never forget who they are.
Friends don’t Bully
Being true to yourself, has become a suffering journey for many. They feel pressure to wear the same fashion, listen to the same music, and worship the same God as the people around them. To top it off, being yourself could lead to bullying, which has become even more vicious, in the new age of cyber bullying. Today, teenagers on social media like Twitter or Facebook, speak negatively and harshly about one another, start harmful rumors, and post embarrassing pictures of one another. Because the internet has such mass appeal and can reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time, some teens have committed suicide as a result of this form of bullying. Having such threatening possibilites hovering over you would greatly influence ones behavior. Taking drugs, being disobedient to parents, and staying in trouble, may all be outlets to deal with the pain of being bullied.
Do your child a favor, and talk to them about bullying and develop a network with school staff to curb its effects. But most importantly, keep the flow of conversation open from day one with your child, so when times of bullying present themselves, they’ll feel comfortable coming to you and talking about it.
Knowing What a Friend Is
Teenagers find a close and trusted friend, whose friendship is based on character. Reliable and resourceful friendships are not formed because of common interests alone. It takes commitment, trust, and loyalty to build the character of a friendship. Remember, a true friend will tell you what you “need” to hear, not what you “want” to hear! They want the best for you, even if the truth is a hard pill to swallow. David and Jonathan had such a friendship. In 1 Samuel 20:4, Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you”. At one time or another friendships will be challenging, but understand that all relationships requires work and sacrifice.
Knowing How to Be a Friend
To be a good friend and develop friendships, there are some qualities we must possess first. We must be accountable, responsible, and trustworthy individuals. We must also possess the ability to understand more than being understood. As we develop the ability to be more supportive of others, we will begin to attract different kinds of friends. Just like Jesus said in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”. Others will take the risk in trying to become your friend, because they’ll know you bear good fruits.