June 09, 2008

Parents and Children - How Much Influence Do We Really Have? As parents, we often worry about how our kids will handle things as they grow up. We try to teach them all that we know in the hope that what we are telling them will get locked away in their brains and that, when faced with temptation or a difficult choice, our words will be recalled and a wise choice made. But how much influence do we really have on our children's behavior? There is some good news here. Research has shown that throughout our children's lives, we parents really are the strongest influence on our children's behavior. Our kids are listening and learning from us. They do consider what we have to say about issues and when they are confused or unsure, we are often the first ones to whom they turn for advice...until high school, that is. When our kids become teenagers, we parents lose our power. Teens still hear our voices if only faintly, but there are new voices – those of their peers. Parent's voices simply cannot be heard over the din. The voices of our children's peers are far more piercing and persuasive. What problems can this create for our kids? Well, at a time when our children are beginning to grow up and are faced with many more temptations and life-altering choices than we might like, they are taking there cue from their friends. Peers are their primary counsel when it comes to whether or not to become sexually active, to use condoms, to drink, to take drugs, or to smoke. Should they wear their seat belts? Should they wear helmets? Should they use sunscreen? The list of important decisions that our children are faced with in their teens is endless.
The Strength to be Yourself Once in a while I get in a funk...don't we all? I fall into the trap of comparing myself with others, regretting past mistakes, wishing I had done things differently or that I was more like someone else I imagine to be far better off. For a day or two, I can't seem to muster the energy to take all of my own advice on positive thinking, gratitude, living in the here and now, blah, blah, blah. Hey, I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. Yes, I know better and yet sometimes, even knowing better isn't enough to keep my spirits up when things aren't going my way. So, I allow myself a day or two of moping and then I get on with my life. I get back on the positive psychology wagon. I focus on the moment, try to meditate, exercise (of course), engage in activities that foster more positive emotions (like reading or walking outside or a little gardening) and the world seems bright once again. It's good that I go through this really. It keeps me humble and serves as a reminder that there is a lot of unhappiness in the world and that we are all susceptible. Experiencing it myself now and again helps me to be more compassionate towards others who are feeling low and maybe don't have the knowledge or the skills to pull themselves out of it like I do. I believe that we all need to do what we can in this crazy world to try to stay positive, to improve our lives and to be happy. I also believe that we owe it to our friends, our families and our neighbors to reach out and grab their hands and lift them up as well.

Lori Jewett

I'm an overly educated stay-at-home mom with two kids and the need for adult conversation.

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