Teens are under a lot of pressure, and some would argue that there is even more stress than when we were teens! Earning exceptional grades, excelling in multiple sports, playing a few instruments, building up the resume for the college applications, and navigating puberty, adolescence and relationships are just a few of the challenges.
On top of that craziness, let’s throw in the popularity contest. Yes, we all want to be popular to some degree, but most just want to have a good core group of friends. Sadly, there are some that must absolutely win over the hearts and minds of hundreds of others in order to feel that they fit in. According to an article on WebMD, researchers found that popular teens enjoyed social benefits, but they also concluded that they were more likely to dabble in alcohol, smoke marijuana, and commit minor delinquent acts. They did not state what specific acts those were.
Another website, kidshealth.org, talks about helping children cope with cliques. There is intense pressure to, as I say, “act right, be right, do right and look right”. Adolescents in cliques can become fearful of being dropped for not meeting the popularity requirements of the group. They may even be driven to extreme dieting and eating, stealing, pulling pranks, or bullying other kids. Some may become involved in social media gossip and teasing. The media has recently been focusing on this due to the suicide of a young teenage girl who was allegedly teased and bullied on Facebook.
Being the mom of teens, I have seen parents actually pushing their children into this fame game. Buying the trendy clothing, befriending parents of seemingly well-liked kids, and insisting that their progeny become involved in certain activities. Perhaps mom or dad was a shrinking violet or a wallflower, and is hell bent on providing the best social experience they can for their child. I am simply speculating here.
Unfortunately, and in all honesty, these parents simply look pitiful. Attempting to comprehend why their son wasn’t invited to the party with the “cool” kids consumes them. Mothers calling other mothers and demanding to know why their little Muffy wasn’t invited to Trixie’s sleepover. Unbelievable!
In all seriousness, perhaps we should let Muffy know that not everyone is going to like her, and that’s ok. Encourage Muffy to make a few good friends and be her confident self, because as her parents, you love her just the way she is. Friends will naturally follow, and without all of that damned work! Friendships should be EASY and FUN! There should be no anxiety over acceptance, and your child shouldn’t have to prove his or her worth to any “friend”. How superficial is that?
Anyone that knows me is aware that I try to maintain a positive attitude, and a relatively calm disposition. I have never felt the need to be popular or to “act right, be right, do right and look right”. I worked in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for a year, and I feel so lucky to have four healthy sons. I thank God everyday that they come home in one piece and are developing into decent young men who will hopefully become happy adults. All of this popularity bullshit is a waste of time and energy. Perhaps all of this determination would be better spent on schoolwork, philanthropic endeavors, reading a book, or forming meaningful relationships with a handful of REAL friends.
I was out to lunch with two of my best girlfriends a couple of weeks ago, and afterwards, we gushed about how lucky we are to have each other in our lives. I love quotes, and I found one that was perfect for the occasion. “Be careful who you call your friends. I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies”. Boy that’s frigging awesome, and oh so true.
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Filed under: Parenting