Social Media and Belonging

“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”
–Frank Lloyd Wright

As I have said many times, adolescence is a time of great development for children. Middle school is a time in which development is greatly focused on the social and emotional. One aspect of this development is a sense of belonging. As children seek greater autonomy away from their parents, they seek greater acceptance from their peers. After all, their bodies and minds are preparing for a life away from their parents’ home. This can lead children to question where they belong and what they enjoy doing.

Today, adolescents use new methods to satisfy this developmental stage that might be unfamiliar to parents who relied on team sports, organized after school activities, or good ol’ fashioned trips to hang out at the mall. Social media now plays an active role in developing a sense of belonging in positive and, potentially, negative ways. As parents, we should be aware of how our children are using these platforms and actively monitor its usage.

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Teaching Perseverance

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

Last week, in a very rare moment of downtime, I perused my social media sites, and it wasn’t to check up on my kids this time. I was excited about a friend’s recent news, and I wanted to check to see how things were going. A friend from high school is in a band, and they had a major label release of their first album. The album has garnered critical acclaim. What is interesting about this news is that I am a woman of “a certain age” (that age when it becomes impolite to ask how old I am), and this friend has been working on getting an album deal since we were in high school. That is a very long time to be working for something with very little success.

To be honest, if I were in my friend’s shoes, I would have given up long ago. Many people told him to get a “real” job, and he did. He was quite successful in that arena too, but on the side, he continually worked towards his dream of being a recording artist and making his own music. I was struck with awe as I considered how long it has taken for him to achieve his goal. I could only imagine the number of rejections he had faced before getting to this point. I felt that sense of pride that rises up when we recognize the efforts, perseverance, and achievements in others, especially those we have supported along their journey.

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Setting Boundaries with your Tween/Teen

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors.”
–George Washington

One of the greatest dilemmas of raising adolescents is maintaining the balance between keeping them safe and supporting their increasing need for independence. Adolescents can look and sound like adults, but as we learned last week, their decision-making capabilities are significantly delayed compared to their physical development. They tend to be impulsive and driven by peer relationships. This is why it is paramount that we consistently provide boundaries for behavior, and we re-evaluate them often. Establishing boundaries or limits can help to reduce conflict within families and help adolescents feel safe and less overwhelmed. After all, they are often dealing with many physical and social changes.

Many online resources or books on parenting provide age appropriate guidelines for boundaries or rules. I encourage parents to use those guidelines, but to also evaluate a child’s maturity level in addition to age. For example, you may have set the standard that your child can get a cell phone by the age of thirteen. However, they have not shown the responsibility to complete homework on time or complete daily household chores, then they should not receive the cell phone.

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