As kids grow up and reach their teen years their peer relationships are one of the most important aspects of their lives. The social groups that teens attach themselves to are signals to other peers of who they are and what their values are. Others judge them based on their social group. Teens form their own little worlds – small groups of like-minded friends. They have a specific dialect, distinct way of dressing and do similar activities. They think that adults, particularly parents, don’t know what’s going on and “don’t get them.” There is a lot of pressure for teens to fit in and be cool. Many times teens will do something that they know is wrong just to appear cool and be accepted by others. Teens who have low self esteem or lack confidence and those who lack real friendships and are therefore lonely and depressed, are more likely to give into peer pressure.
Peer pressure can sometimes be good. For example, a friend might be able to convince another friend not to get into a car when the person has been drinking. However, negative peer pressure is very common amongst teens because of the need to be part of a group and also because of their natural curiosity to try out new things.
What’s Your Teen Being Pressured Into?
Peers can pressure each other into all sorts of dangerous, unhealthy, immoral and/or illegal activities. Here are some of the more common pressure points:
- Smoking can be tried as early as 13 years old
- Having too much alcohol
- Trying drugs
- Having sex before they are ready
- Pushing off school work to have fun or to party
- Giving up extracurricular activities
- Allowing friends to cheat off them
- Bullying others
How Parents can Help
- Talk to your teen. Tell them that you respect their friends and understand that they can make mistakes just like you do. If you identify problems with the friends, explain your concerns clearly.
- Talk to other parents and exchange ideas and work together to help keep your teens safe
- Help your teen come up with strategies on how to say no and fight peer pressure using techniques such as blaming it on parents, say no and leaving, suggesting other “cool” ideas and so on. Brainstorm with your teen. Ask them if they’ve seen other kids resisting social pressure. How did they do it?
- Teach your teen to be accountable for what he did wrong. Even though friends can sometimes be wrong also your teen must know that he is always responsible for his actions
- Invite your teen’s friends over and get to know them. Your teen might not admit it but he/she feels good when parents show that they approve of their friends and that they can relate to them
It is normal for teens to feel like they are being judged so when you speak to them make sure your tone is non-threatening but rather understanding and calm. If they see you getting upset then they will also. Try to relate to them by telling them issues you faced as a teen. An open line of communication is one of the most valuable things you can offer your teen. Do not force them to talk but let them know that you are always there when they need you. As teens grow up and explore who they are, this time period will be a positive experience for them. Your teen will probably be involved in some form of negative peer pressure at some point but with the help of your expert parenting skills, they’ll be just fine!