My mother used to tell me how important friends became to your child as they got older, particularly between the ages of 8 and up. Now I see it with my very own eyes as Michael is at that age when friends sometimes seem to matter more than his family. This is especially apparent when it comes to the latest toys (guess who LOVES Star Wars figurines and food snacks because two of his class friends do. :)) and, on a very positive note, who tried raw apples due to a friend and now LOVES them. I call this positive peer pressure, but I digress. 🙂
Michael has been growing leaps and bounds with trying new games, new foods, and experimenting with different things that his friends like. I am happy to see this, as it shows me he is growing up. This got me thinking of all the positive influences friends and peers have on each other and how I as an Exceptional Parent, can encourage Michael to look at the positive things his friends are doing and be the positive influence in his friends’ lives:
5 Ways Friends Help Exceptional Children Mature:
- By trying out new games: Before Michael started looking to his friends, he was kind of stuck playing the same games, watching the same shows. Being able to observe other people his age helped him develop new interests. He now likes to read different books, do puzzles again and is interested in dancing.
- By sharing common interests: Gone are the days of parallel play, at least for the most part. This is something very common with kids who are on the autism spectrum, yet as Michael has learned more about referencing other kids, he has also learned how to play games his friends may like that he is not as crazy about. They, in turn, have learned the same from him.
- Kids look forward to playing with their friends versus adults around them : Now Michael still looks forward to playing with his father and I, but he also wants more engagement with friend his own age. This helps him grow up in different ways than when he is with us. Both are important and have their place.
- Sleep overs: When your child has their first sleep over, it gives them the freedom to be away from Mom and Dad, as well as experimenting with independence and being away from home for a brief period of time. This is good for everyone.
- By showing them what NOT to do: This is a controversial one. Yes, no parent likes to witness when their child has picked up unsavory behaviors, swear words, or inapropriate comments from peers. The good thing with this though, is that it becomes a teaching moment where the parents can show their child what NOT to do, and WHAT IS acceptable.
Personally, I have seen a mixture of positive and negative role models since peers have begun playing a more prominent role in Michael’s life, but overall the change in him is a positive one as he learns to negotiate right from wrong, authority from non authority, and has started turning to his parents even more to answer life’s questions. He is truly growing up.
Exceptional Parents, what role do your children’s peers play in their life, if any? Do you notice positive or negative effects and how do you handle both? The lesson here is one that our children teach us. Ride the wave, be there to help your Exceptional Child slowly learn to steer the ship and make their own decisions, and then, when they are ready, you step back. Until next time.