Peer pressure is one of the most subtle and insidious influences on your teen’s life. It can take on forms that don’t seem obviously negative: just your kids’ friends trying to get them to do something they say is going to be “fun,” or “cool.” Besides the fact that your children want to fit in and have friends, even for good kids, it can be hard to tell sometimes in the heat of the moment if what they’re being pressured to do is really harmful or not.
You can’t be with your kid 100% of the time, but the skills you teach them can be.
These tips will help you talk to your kids about resisting peer pressure.
- Be empathetic. Try to remember how it felt when you were going through what they’re going through. When your kids understand that you’ve walked in their shoes, they’ll be more likely to respect your advice, so relate to them your own experience in similar situations.
- Really listen to them. Adolescence is a time of radical change for your kids – their bodies, minds, and social lives are changing every day in ways that they probably don’t yet have the skills to understand and process. So listen to them, respect their opinions and experience, and respond to what they’re saying to you. Try not to fly off the handle with anger if they tell you that they’ve made mistakes – you made them too.
- Talk about your values, and what’s important to you as a parent, and as a family. You should be doing this anyway. Part of good parenting is teaching your children the difference between right and wrong; what’s important to your family, community, and faith; giving your kids the tools to embody these values in the decisions they make every day, like whether or not to have that drink, smoke that joint, get into that car, or whatever.
- Teach them the value of individualism and the rewards of going their own way. One of peer pressure’s most powerful lures is the safety of the crowd. But the rewards of going along to get along are fleeting when compared to the powerful feelings of self-worth and confidence you gain from making good decisions on your own. Help them to understand that while there can definitely be a cost to resisting peer pressure, the reward is so much more valuable and long-lasting.
- Find out about your kids’ friends. Who your kids are spending time with is one of the most important factors in determining what they’re going to be doing at school during recess, and after school. While you can’t and shouldn’t try to choose your children’s friends, you should still make sure you know who they are, what your kid likes about them, and how they spend their time.
- Talk about examples of peer pressure your child might see for themselves every day at school. Role play the situation to help your child learn and practice strategies for making good decisions, explaining these decisions to their friends and acting on these strategies. Practicing resistance in a safe environment will help your child learn to resist confidently in real life when the stakes are higher.
- Most importantly, make sure your child knows they’re loved, valued and respected for who they are. Self respect and a positive personal identity are powerful tools, not just in helping your teens make good decisions in the moment, but also for helping them choose good friends, who won’t be as likely to pressure them into compromising situations in the first place.
For more information on resisting peer pressure, check out www.abovetheinfluence.com. It’s a great resource for both you and your kids.
And keep your eyes peeled for information on how to participate in and support National Above the Influence Day on October 18th 2012 – a day dedicated to celebrating successful, local prevention efforts in communities across the United States. Visit www.atipartnerships.com for resources and downloads.