Sometime around the third grade, kids begin to categorize each other, and it seems to happen overnight. One day your child is confidently playing at recess with her friends and the next day she’s sitting at the lunch table alone because someone labeled her as “uncool” while other kids agreed. As parents, this can be heartbreaking, especially if we can recall being in similar situations ourselves. While confidence, socialization and self-esteem are important for a child’s well-being, “being cool” is actually not as important as our children, or even we as parents make it out to be.
In fact, a recent study done by researchers at the University of Virginia and published in the journal of Child Development, backs up why it might actually be ok if your kid isn’t part of the “in” crowd. Sure it may be hard now as your child feels disappointment that they are not invited to certain parties, allowed to hang out with a particular crowd or are excluded from activities, the study points out that the kids who are classified as “cool” were more likely to have troubles down the road.
Conducted over a 10-year span, the research concluded that as young adults, the kids known for being cool were 40% more likely to use drugs and alcohol than the less popular kids. Also, these same cool kids were 22% more likely to find themselves doing illegal activities. Surprisingly, overall, the future for the most popular kids wasn’t so bright.
The kids who were known to be cooler than others were more likely to have had sexual relationships sooner, had damaged or destroyed property belonging to their parents, had snuck into movies without paying, snuck out of the house, stolen from family and had tried drugs and alcohol. While the “nerds” did not participate in those behaviors at all. For the kids who regularly try to “act grown up,” their conduct is significantly stifling their future successes. Moving too fast socially and the behaviors that go along with it may be symptomatic of deeper issues. As parents, we might see our children doing well socially, but it is important to take a closer look at who they are hanging out with and what activities they are doing. And, if our children are not doing well socially, we should take a look at that too, but perhaps not worry as much as we initially thought.
Socially, the popularity of Facebook and other forms of social media can be intriguing. You might even find yourself searching for the kids you once knew when you were in school – the ones who once appeared to have it all. They were the intimidating and glamourous ones with the trendiest clothing, and who were always going to the best parties. You may find that now they are working menial jobs, divorced or have poor relationships, etc. While the ones who were quiet, had just a handful of close friends and didn’t attract much attention are doing quite well.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to ensure they are happy and healthy. Ask questions, learn who their friends are, and help them develop healthy, social relationships. Being “cool” is not all that it is cracked up to be, and down the road, being a nerd might just be the best revenge.