Teens place a lot of emphasis on their peer group in our Western society. Indeed, the peer group is an important source of support and identity for young people. But parents should not underestimate their role in their child's life. Parents can't necessary replace peers, but a teen's relationship with his or her parents is an important source of identity development as well.

Over the last decade, as public schools have become a staple in our culture, the idea of herding children together according to age and placing a high value on the “peer group” has become commonplace. It seems natural these days for teens to be full of angst, rebellious, and nearly non-existent at home. It's true that even in Shakespeare's day, teens were trouble, but it's relatively recent that we've put all these troubled individuals in the same age group in a setting where there are few people to interact with who are older or younger. Again, it seems “natural” for teens to need their peer group, but do they really?

A recent National Geographic issue discussed the teenage brain, it's flaws and virtues. Teenager's brains are not fully developed until about age 25. Teens are wired to think about the peer group and “fitting in”, but that doesn't mean that all teens benefit from spending large quantities of time with peers. On the contrary, parents who place healthy limits on peer-group time and season their child's social palate with people who are both older and younger may help their child develop the ability to understand people in general better rather than just tuning into people their age.

Some teens aren't as successful at building a large network of friends as others. Is this something for parents to worry about? It depends. Teens need to socialize just like younger kids and adults. But what if your teen is happy socializing with people who are older or younger or all ages? Is this something to be concerned about? If your teen seems depressed then yes, you should be concerned and seek out some depression help online for your child. But if your teen seems relatively well adjusted, does he or she need a big peer group in order to survive and be happy in the world?

Your teens survival depends on a number of people including parents, peers, people much older, and people much younger. Teenagers will grow into adults who need bosses and coworkers, spouses, children, aunts, uncles, parents, strangers, and friends in order to survive. Self-confidence, the ability to develop strong relationships, and the ability to nurture another person and be nurtured is probably more important than having a big network of peers.

Parents can help a teen who doesn't have a large network of friends by getting him (or her) involved in activities that involve socialization outside of school. Helping your teen develop self-confidence and a strong identity by seeking out parenting help is perhaps more important than making sure he has lots of friends the same age.

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