Silvana Espindola, TLT (Tomorrow’s Leaders Today) Chief of Staff, speaks to parents about the importance of friend groups!
One of the best one-liners about friendship I’ve heard is –
“Tell me who your friends are
and I’ll tell you who you are.”
As teenagers, our friends are our number one influencers. (Sorry, parents!) In these years of discovering our identity and defining our morals, friends play a huge role in the people we become. Here are some of the reasons why the friends we choose matter, and how you, as a parent, can play a role in the process.
- Friends influence our behaviors and attitudes…
Good behavior by peers can spread through the group. But bad company corrupts good morals. If your child is not yet firm in their identity, it can cause them to fall into negative peer pressure. I noticed that when I would spend time with some old acquaintances who curse, have low self-esteem, and are excessively sarcastic, I was apt do the same. On the flip side, when I hang out with my “squad” of encouraging people, full of integrity, it not only boosts my self-esteem, but also challenges me to consider the areas where I am lacking, and improve. It seems silly but whether it’s subtle or outright, teenagers will develop similar attitudes and mindsets as their peers. I love the Proverb, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.” No parent wants to see their child suffer harm, so here are some points of reassurance.
- Parents influence our choices and values…
The first thing you can do to encourage your teen in selecting good friends is assess and direct. I’ve been blessed with a wise mother who (after I had an established group of friends), told me, “I couldn’t choose your friends for you, but I could give you a nice pool from which to choose.” Good move, mom. Strategically sending your teen to impactful summer programs, like Camp iDENTIFY, gives them the opportunity to choose friends amongst a group of likeminded individuals with similar interests. This pre-selection can be applied to any area in your teenager’s life: work, sports, school, and clubs. The people I met there [at Camp iDENTIFY] have quickly become some of my closest friends. Parents, mentors, and friends, all help to shape us in some way or another but if we are not secure in our identities, we will be powerless to make good choices under pressure.
- The Thermostat/ Thermometer Theory…
A popular saying now is, “Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.” Let me explain; a thermometer reads the room temperature, but a thermostat sets it. Similarly, you want to raise your teen to set high standards for their group, not conform to low ones. “Meddling with children’s relationships has a high potential for backfiring,” Mitch Prinstein, director of clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina, says. “It can actually fuel rebellion.” Prinstein concluded that, “Helping your child develop a sense of identity and feel secure in that identity is probably the best antidote.”
- How do I achieve Thermostatus? (See what I did there… )
Encouraging your child in their natural gifts and finding opportunities for him or her to use them is a great first step. Highlight who they are and celebrate their small victories. Feel free to take every opportunity to share good and bad examples from your experiences with your friends. It’s nice to be reminded that our parents aren’t perfect. In fact, it makes you more interesting! Also, when you see good or bad behavior reflected in your teen’s friend group, you may want to emphasize the consequences of their choices. Give verbal approval when they choose well. But BE AWARE YOU DON’T COMPARE. (Nothing destroys a heart faster than being told it isn’t _____ enough.) Have some boundaries in place for getting to know your teen’s friends. You know your child. If they are easily influenced, suggest that they hang out with new friends at your house so you can assess and direct. Ultimately, keep communication open and trust available at all times.
Friend groups will be a major source of influence in your child’s life for the next few years. Enjoy this season with them and be ready to love them, regardless of their mistakes. If you take the tools you’ve been given and raise a thermostat, you won’t have to worry about trying to set the temperature again.
If you’re ever tuned into today’s media, you’ve probably heard the slights and digs about “The Millennials.” Let’s just go ahead and admit it; some of it is rather funny. Who are these Millennials? I am sure many of these 13-35 years olds, who make up this largest living generation in the US, would even LOL as well.
So, what’s the bum rap? I’d say it’s the misconception that they don’t care, when in fact, they care deeply. They care about equality, justice, each other, the planet, and leaving their world a better place. If they do care so deeply, why this dishonorable talk, false accusations, and trumped-up charges toward an entire generation? Perhaps it’s the social media lifestyle of spending too much time engaging on Instagram rather than out in the real world they wish to change. Is the root problem the fact that many Millennials have been parented and discipled by the virtual world rather than by God’s Word?
When anyone, from any generation, spends more time on Facebook than face-to-face, more time on Snap Chat than chatting side-by-side, more time Tweeting than checking out the birds, and more time sharing Instagram photos than creating real-life memories from personal encounters, then there is a dangerous disconnect from reality and more so from God. It’s precisely this disconnect which inspired me to write the thought-provoking creative coffee-table book, Reset: A Poetic Manifesto for the Digital Age, with sentiments such as…
“Our status, you see, is not of this world
and our updates must reflect
the creation I am becoming
as He searches me
off the internet.”
Is the Millennial generation to blame? Or, is it a classic case of good intentions with no directions? In one sense, all of us, including Millennials, must take personal responsibility for our habits and actions. Are you a parent who has become distracted by technology and have let it parent your children? In any case, it’s clear that this generation has hearts pricked to impact the world. Millennials want to do great things and make a lasting impact. They just need to be equipped. Nashville recording artist Brooke DeLeary, of LOVECOLLIDE, shares, “My generation is desperate for change that is real. Once they’ve tasted it, they get addicted. A relationship with Jesus Christ is the most real, authentic thing anyone can have. I believe a revival will come from the hunger of this generation.”
Could there be a desire to make a difference without the skills and mentoring needed to make it happen? That is precisely the question that Elev8Life Educational Foundation has purposed to answer & solve! Its Founder and President Dr. Andrea Hazim, has a passion to see people discover their God-given identity and walk in their unique Kingdom purpose.
Elev8Life is an advocacy and equipping ministry inspiring individuals to rise above today’s common culture of average. Some of its flagship programs are iDENTIFY Leadership for young adults, Elev8Women and education. Their unique programs focus on personal development and life stewardship with a particular emphasis on cultivating each person’s natural leadership abilities.
I was a delighted to meet Camp iDENTIFY students to discover how they are being equipped to become a force for good, and more importantly a force for God. Grace Caster from Texas commented, “I would encourage every young person to better themselves by getting involved with Elev8Life’s life changing programs. At Camp iDENTIFY, I learned so much about the importance of being a leader among my friends, in my community, and in business.”
Young Millennial leaders like Grace will become the up-and-coming entrepreneurs of the future. Have you noticed how many are connecting their for-profit businesses to non-profit social causes? The hashtag #socent belongs to these social entrepreneurs. Programs like iDENTIFY create leaders or Kingdompreneurs that think in terms of using their success and wealth to build God’s Kingdom through socially responsible businesses, conscientious of human and environmental needs.
Dr. Hazim is passionate about creating such leaders by inspiring the Millennial generation to become “TLT” aka Tomorrow’s Leaders Today who: rise above the low expectations of average, live with excellence, and glorify God in reaching their full potential. Elev8Life is equipping TLT through transformative personal development programs and educational resources all with a Biblical Worldview emphasizing a personal relationship with God through Christ and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
It is a blessing to learn about an organization so committed to providing uplifting programs and events such as Camp iDENTIFY, which always includes their annual Elev8Life SummerJam outreach concert. They have also made an impact by supporting other organization’s visions as they have with Big Children’s Foundation, Daring Daughters #LetYourWriteShine retreats, as well as leading service teams at Leadercast and Hepzibah House.
Andrea is proud to say, “We are training leaders today that will be tomorrow’s business and ministry leaders. Seeing young adults discover WHO and WHOSE they are in God’s Kingdom is the fruit. They will have the courage and confidence to step into whatever God calls them to in a BIG way!” iDENTIFY Leadership is a huge resource for families and young adults. The seven-day transformational Camp iDENTIFY experience is coming up this June 25-July 1.
Learn more and enroll your young adult for camp at www.Elev8Life.org or www.iDENTIFY.life.
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