HEM’s Questions & Answers - May-June 2011

Peer Pressure from Former Homeschooler

We need serious help dealing with peer pressure. We homeschool largely because our daughter, going on 13, is at the top of her field and currently competing in pre-Olympic trials. Her best friend recently quit both competing and homeschooling to attend school. All she talks about is what my daughter is missing. Now my daughter feels left out in terms of boys, fashion, the latest music, movies and fun. Every call and text leaves her more miserable and questioning her life choices. We’d like to have a little chat with this menace of a friend but know that would backfire. What should I do? - angry parents

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9 Responses to “Peer Pressure from Former Homeschooler - Q&A May-June 2011”

  1. Kai says:

    Perhaps one tactic might be to highlight everything your daughter isn’t missing out on: high level of competition in an event she LOVES, working hard and feeling good when she accomplishes her training goals, travel, etc. (of course, if she honestly isn’t enjoying her event, then a different discussion is necessary)

    Maybe point out that sometimes a choice that is good for one person is not good for a different person. Many people are very uncomfortable in school settings (cliques, peer pressure, drugs, drinking, not fitting in, etc). And that what is new and exciting at first might get very old very soon.

    I might also point out everything that her friend has sacrificed to be involved in the world of school, fashion and boys. Seems like perhaps a discussion on goals & values might be helpful.

  2. Michelle Wilbert says:

    As a long time homeschooler/unschooler who now has young adult children, I would suggest first that you, as the parents, detach a little bit, step back and think about the reasons you wanted to homeschool in the first place. I noticed first off that you signed yourself as ‘angry parent’-who are you angry with? What’s the source of your anger and what’s beneath it? Anger isn’t a primary emotion, typically. There is always something underneath and most often, it’s fear. When our children reach adolescence, we are always going to be confronted with their expanding reach into the world around them as well as its expanded reach towards them! We need to remember that it’s developmentally appropriate for teenagers to seek peer approval and to separate emotionally from their parents to a degree. There are real risks out there; I minimize none of them and we had plenty of adolescent problems we never anticipated when our kids reached 15-16 or so. The teen years often mean that we have a lot less contact and relationship with their friends and their friends families. What is most scary for homeschool parents with teens is the fear of losing control and it’s important to really look at how much that may have played into our homeschooling/unschooling over the years. We tend to choose homeschooling to give our kids “freedom” but we often also believe, as parents, that homeschooling will ensure that our kids are not impacted by the larger culture and it’s values and that we will be able to prevent bad things from happening; it’s not true. We don’t have that kind of power and we aren’t meant to exert that much control
    The practical advice: Leave it be for awhile; let your daughter struggle with this and come to her own conclusions. You don’t have to persuade her or even set up a conversation that encourages her to follow one path or another; live out your core values about homeschooling and let her choose. Keep the lines of communication open but what teenagers really need from their parents is the sense that we believe that they are competent to make good choices and we also need to let them experience ‘failure’ and consequences. If she chooses to got to school or to try out different lifestyle options, some of that will work for her, and some of it won’t and she needs to see how that works to grow into healthy adulthood. Good luck and have courage; it gets easier. Michelle Wilbert, Close to the Root Family and Community Resources; Midwife; Unschooling Mom to Stephen, 22, Emma, 20, Hugh, 16 and Mary, 9.

    • Wendy says:

      I don’t agree with Michelle Wilbert. It’s not up to a child, especially one who’s only 13, to lead themselves. It’s up to the parent to lead their child. Children are very easily influenced and to encourage a young girl to make a decision based on another girl’s (very likely envious and malicious) tauntings is irresponsible for a parent to do. I’m not saying children are incapable of making good decisions (unfortunately it’s even easier for them to make wrong ones), nor am I saying they are incapable of thinking for themselves, I am saying that it isn’t something she needs to do because she has parents to make this type of decision for her until she’s old enough to know what she really wants, not what will look good to another child. If she decided to throw all of her hard work away so she could run after boys and learn about the latest teen style, she’ll undoubtably regret it when she’s older and nothing is as bitter as hindsight regret, because you can’t take those decisions back. She’s a child and she should have a parent who’s strong enough to say no to peer pressure for her so she’s free to lay the blame on them and get on with what’s really important, laying a good foundation for her OWN life and not worrying about someone elses. Children can’t have everything they want, even if it seem SOOOO important when they’re 13. Obviously running roughshod over a childs true feelings isn’t something a parent should do, but shallow feelings are a different matter. She’ll thank you for being a parent with conviction instead of a pushover who lets her have her whim and fancy no matter the consequences.

  3. rowena___. says:

    what a difficult situation for everybody. one thing it is well to remember for both child and parent is that many people like to inflate their situation when talking to others in order to hide how much they have forfeited by making that life choice. the friend who gave up competing at such a high level and has joined a conventional life gave away her chance to stand out from the crowd and that must make her feel as if she is no longer special. so perhaps a little effort toward reassuring the friend that she still matters, that she is still important and valuable for who she is would go a long way toward smoothing this transition for both girls.

  4. betsy sproger says:

    We had the same thing come up in our homeschool with my 14 y.o. Her best friend was planning to go to P.S. next year, and my dd wanted to go with him. We had ‘the grass is always greener’ talk, and that helped some. Then we made a list of + and - of her homeschool, and focused on her goals, one of which is to get her writing published in an early writer’s magazine. But the thing that helped her the most was to find ways that she could stay close to her friend. This was a big move for them. They were going to be doing different things during the day, and my dd was worried about losing her friend. So we needed to focus on shared common experiences,.Once we built that into our dd’s week, it didn’t matter so much where they were educated And our dd didn’t really care about high school fashion,etc that much, once she was skating alongside her friend……. I find myself at the rink more often or not, these days, but that’ ok with me. I get to help my dd find her way through the high school years,

  5. Kate says:

    I’m an oldest kid in a big family and I was home schooled K-12. At first, home schooling started because I was ahead of my peers & my mom thought that putting me into a kindergarten program with non-readers might make me try to underachieve. My parents stuck with it because it gave us a lot of stability as a family that had to move a lot.

    In high school, I kept home schooling because my parents had gotten me into travel sports for “socialization.” Both of my parents were athletic….I was gifted. Honestly, I’d try pointing out to your daughter that she’s more talented than her friend. Don’t make her feel pressured to perform, but DO point out to her that she is exceptional. Encourage friendships with other girls. I’m not saying to try and verbally cut down your daughter’s friend (she’ll see right through that), but it might be worth it to try and show her how much she has accomplished and what she would be giving up.

    A 13 y.o. can’t see very far into the future and every little problem seems massive. Missing out on movies, music, & fashion can be fixed with netflix, itunes, and a trip to the mall…way less painful than giving up on a once in a lifetime opportunity. You might even be able to find a home school grad that went down the same path she’s on. Home schooling for sports (pretty rare) and home schooling for religion (most of the home schoolers I’ve met) are two completely different things…Take a look at your support group and see if she has any actual peers other than this girl who’s giving you problems.

    Failing that….well, block the little girl’s # and tell your daughter you don’t why she doesn’t call anymore :-) jk….

  6. polo skjorter says:

    The article very carefully, of fuel

  7. Sandy says:

    “angry parents” wrote: “Her best friend recently quit both competing and homeschooling…”

    That quote says it all for me. She’s stopped competing in sports, and begun competing for social status among her age-mates. Since it’s not common matters of teen angst which fill her head, she’ll naturally tend to believe these matters are more urgent/important/interesting than her previous competition and independent studies. The key is to help your daughter understand the shift in her friend’s thinking, and how she’s justifying her own decision, and how your daughter’s mileage may vary. I liked Rowena’s compassionate suggestion to help build the friend’s confidence.

  8. Sandy says:

    Errata: “Since it’s not common matters…” should have read “Since it’s NOW common matters…”

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