We have lived since my daughter's birth 4 years ago in an apartment and directly next door is a boy the same age that she has known since birth. His parents chose a different path than us and have sent their child to day care from a young age. When he comes home he always comes to our door to play with our daughter and after that the two are difficult to separate even for dinner. On weekends they also want to play together all day and now sometimes she asks to sleep with him at his house which I am reluctant to do because she still sleeps with us. They have a lot of fun together and since she is an only child I think it's good for her to have the social contact but at the same time my otherwise peaceful daughter can get extremely riled up. On top of this she is already talking about wanting to go to school with him when it is school time and we were hoping for an alternative school. How can I counter this influence when my daughter loves being with him so much and he is always there. In my mind I am already fast forwarding to the teen years and the problems with peer influence and if I can't handle it now how will I handle it then?
How fortunate your daughter is to have such a close friend. Tell her that she will not be going to the school her friend is going to. Don’t wait. Why should she believe an illusion and then be heart broken? It is kinder to keep her informed right away. Knowing in advance will help her to cope with this choice. Let her know that even if she went to the same school, she is likely to end up in a different class than he is anyway. Clarify that even now he is away through the school hours, and so it won’t be different. After school they will still get together and play.
As for being riled, keep in mind that it is beneficial for your daughter to learn to deal with emotions and relationships. Follow the SALVE communication formula from my book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: http://naomialdort.com/book.html so she can fully express herself and unleash any stressful feelings. Sorting out emotions and relationships is a healthy part of growing up.
If you are worried about other potential influences in the future, you may want to talk to the boy’s parents. Become friends with them and tell them how much you cherish their son in your daughter’s life. In addition let them know what future influences you may be concerned about. I am sure they love their son’s friendship with your daughter and would want to take your concerns into account in order to make things smoother.
The greatest protection from teen peer pressure is not lack of it, but the ability to stay rooted in oneself. It is children who obey their parents that move on to obey their peers. Make sure to respect your child’s choices and nurture her autonomy so she learns to check with herself rather than with peers.
Encountering influences that are not approved by you can empower your daughter and help her not to fall for peer pressure in the future. I used to say to my children, “That’s what they do in their house. In our family we do it this way... or, we don’t do this but we do that.” Learning that each person and family have their own lives and choices is a great help in learning to stay rooted in oneself, and to create friendships without needing to be the same.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com