Every person I've ever met - adult, teen or child, wants some or all of the following: to belong, be accepted and to be popular with their peers. The desire to belong and be accepted is a core emotional trait
, and if void from our being can make us unsettled and uncomfortable; regardless of our age
No man (or woman) is an island. Close relationships, familiarity, and camaraderie represent the very definition of that warm and fuzzy feeling of belonging. Being accepted is a kissing cousin to belonging, for if one belongs, it stands to reason that one is accepted. Conversely, it would be difficult to belong if you were not accepted as well.
Let's start with the child and/or teenager who spend the bulk of his or her waking hours at school. Though it may not be "cool" to admit, they desperately desire to be a part of a clique or group. If they are able to find a healthy, productive niche, they will belong, be accepted and be popular within that special community. Not only is this experience good for the soul, it builds self-confidence and becomes a vital part of the formative years. Participating in this community instills a sense of commitment and accountability, not only to themselves, but also to others. As adulthood approaches, this experience helps set the stage for a self-assured career as well as being part of a team in a work environment.
Looking back on our own childhoods, we can remember the various groups that everyone belonged to. There were the brainy or debate team students, the nerdy, scientific sets or the lofty sports figures and cheerleaders, among others.
So what happens when our children or teenagers can't find that group that will give them a sense of belonging, acceptance or popularity? Or, has found that group they so desperately want to be a part of, but wants no part of them?
As parents, our hearts break as we witness our children or teenagers start to feel "less than", become self-critical and possibly turn into their own worst enemies. Desperation might lead these children or teenagers into doing something they know is wrong and possibly dangerous.
Whether it is to score drugs, supply alcohol or even dabble in petty to serious criminal activity, these confused and scared children start to turn a deaf ear to morals, honesty and values and begin to get caught up in a fast moving current of destruction in order fit in, be accepted and supposedly be popular. If these characteristics start to sprout and consequently are not addressed, it is possible that the road to addiction could start here.
If you see or sense that your child or teenager has become lost or directionless, step in! If you are concerned about the company they are keeping just so they can be accepted or belong, step in!
Today, there are a wide range of positive, creative options offered to help your child or teenager find their own niche of acceptance and belonging. Some children and teens may need to be coaxed out of the negative signals and their narrow focus on what they have perceived as failure and rejection. Help them see different options while empathizing with how they feel.
As a parent, family member or friend, you can help them explore what those different choices might be and tap into them in a positive and active way. Find a camp, after school activity, club, group, one-on-one tutor, etc., to help your child know and feel that they can be accepted and belong within their own interest. Work together to find what's comfortable for them (not you!).
This, of course, is all predicated upon an already established history of open, honest communication with your child; one where they are accepted and have a strong sense of belonging in the family unit. If this is not the case, it would be unwise to pop up at the 11th hour and try to redirect them. Your credibility may be questioned and these efforts could back-fire, sending your child in the opposite direction resulting in unhealthy, destructive behavior.
If eventually you believe that all honest and well meaning endeavors have failed, then your options may take on a different approach. Though always reminding your child that you are there to turn to or talk to, you just may have to trust and hope that the child will come to his or her senses and abandon their destructive path. You can seek professional guidance and entertain other options such as a strict boarding school, out-patient program or even an intervention. Keep in mind that each situation and scenario is different, and it is the wise and thoughtful parent that weighs and considers every possibility very carefully for the health and welfare of their child.
If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.