Every school and every class has students who stand out – not for being the smartest – but for being the ones everyone else wants to be like.  The popular people! What sets one student apart as ‘popular’? The answer is usually self-confidence and that leads to becoming a bit of a trend-setter. If Miss Popular starts wearing electric blue palazzo pants – regardless of whether or not they happen to be in fashion, all the other girls will be demanding that their parents buy them a pair. If Mr Popular is seen in shirt featuring pin-up art, the other boys will want one – and parents who argue it’s inappropriate or expensive won’t get an easy ride. Of course, before long Miss or Mr Popular will have moved on to something else for the crowd to follow. It’s not just about clothes – it’s about where they hang out, which music they like, which celebrities they pronounce ‘cool’ (or whatever the word for ‘good’ is at any given time).  Woe betide anyone who doesn’t follow their trends or can’t keep up with them – or has parents who say ‘no’ to their demands and mean it. Most of us have memories of our own teenage years and you may remember that conversation that goes:

“Everyone is going to the [name of local band] gig at [nearest den of iniquity] on Saturday night, it doesn’t finish until 1am – could you come and pick me up?”

“You’re not going to that place, it’s full of drug dealers.”

“No, it’s not and anyway I wouldn’t touch drugs.  Don’t you trust me?”

“It’s not that we don’t trust you, but we don’t want you to be mixing with those people.”

“All my friends are going and you know them – their parents are OK with it.”

“We’re not your friends’ parents.  You are not going.”

Cue flouncing, stomping and sulking! Whether you snuck out and went, or obeyed the parental ultimatum, you now find you are having very similar conversations with your own young teens (sometimes even before they attain teen-hood). Now you’re in your own popularity contest with your kids’ friends’ parents! Being part of the pack is really important when you’re a teenager – it’s the teen version of ‘keeping up with the Jones’.  It means wearing the right clothes, owning the right phone, going to the right places, being on the right social media, following the right bands and celebrities – and all this costs money.  Whether you can afford it or not, it seems like a pointless series of expenses to any parent. You make the rules for your family – and we’re not suggesting that you change them – but remember how you felt when you were a teenager and your parents ‘treated you like a child’ (your feelings at the time).  What could you do to soften the blow? How can you help your child to fit in and not stand out as the odd one out?