Wanting to be popular and accepted by others is a need that goes deep; it may be hard wired as part of our evolutionary survival strategy. We automatically seek out a safe space and a social group where we feel relaxed and accepted. Children are more vulnerable than adults and their need for protection and support is clearly visible whenever they feel uncertain. This makes the peer group a powerful need and a strong influence for good or otherwise as children seek out acceptance and are fearful of rejection.

So what can parents do to help children make wise decisions about friends and to be less vulnerable to adverse social pressure? As a parent you have already made a start by providing a supportive, happy home. Your love provides an inner security and a positive self image that your child carries round with them to keep them strong.

Here are five things you can do to give your child protective armour of self reliance and a means to retain their family values under pressure.

1) Create strong self belief
Low status makes children vulnerable to peer pressure. Children with a strong self belief in their strengths and abilities have greater self esteem. They are less likely to feel the need to prove themselves in a hostile and competitive environment. Make sure your child gets regular positive feedback on their skills and personal attributes so they are secure and resilient under peer pressure.

2) Understand the role of status symbols
Status symbols are a substitute for inner confidence. Status symbols are hot currency in the 21st century as a way of proving yourself. Help your child to understand the difference between material riches and the true value of personal qualities and achievements. This is a life lesson which will encourage your child to develop themselves and not collect shiny objects like a magpie.

3) Maintain strong family bonds
Children are hard wired to seek out close personal relationships and to look to others to keep them safe. The bond with parents is the first and most powerful bond. When this is secure and strong children gain confidence to find healthy and mutually supportive relationships.

Small children want to stay close to parents and have your time and attention. They will become more independent later but those early years are an important time for being available to meet their needs.

Modern families often don’t have an extended family to share child care which makes friends and child care your support system. You deserve the best support to help you bring up your family and that investment will repay you many times over. Providing loving and consistent child care in the early years will result in your child growing into a confident and independent adult. Encouraging children to be independent too early only makes them seek out the peer group for support.

4) Make space for fun and a little mischief
Children who laugh a lot, share jokes with their family, enjoy rough and tumble play and make a little mischief are less likely to be drawn to the anti social crowd in your area. Everyone needs the feel good factor from having fun and being light hearted. Equally we need the adrenaline rush of doing something a bit challenging or risky. Parents who make sure that their children get some of this from home, in a safe and legitimate way; will help their children to steer clear of the wrong crowd.

5) Encourage open communication
Children need a balance between private time with their friends and the opportunity to learn from adult experience. No child wants to tell their parents everything but knowing that you can air the difficult stuff without being in trouble is the best protection you can give your child. Children, who know that their parents will help them when they have made a mistake, or feel under pressure from peers, are more likely to be open with their parents. This can stop things from escalating or being hidden.

Making friends is a complex skill and children take some time to get the hang of it. Be prepared for the highs and lows of childhood friendships and encourage your child to try again when something goes wrong. If you are not in it, you can’t win it.

Author's Bio: 

Jeni Hooper is a Child and educational psychologist specialising in helping children to find their best selves and to flourish. Her book What Children need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and can be viewed here http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Children-Happy-Confident-Successful/dp/1849...
Jeni can be contacted at info@jenihooper.com or visit my website www.jenihooper.com