Tips to Help Your Teen Cope With Peer Pressure


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Q: My 13-year old daughter, who has always been very independent and secure, seems to be increasingly concerned with being part of the crowd and making decisions based on pressure from her friends. This is not like her at all. What can I do?

A: “Come on, everyone’s done it. Just take the earrings and walk away. Let’s go,” says the coolest kid your son or daughter is hanging out with at the mall. Would your child do what is right, or does he or she give in and take the earrings?

Peer pressure is something everyone has to deal with, but it’s especially difficult for teens and young adults. Many times our decisions are based on how we think others will see us or how we think friends may respond. Making decisions can be hard. When others get involved and pressure you, it becomes even harder.

Peers influence teens almost constantly through school, sports and social media. It’s only human nature to be intrigued about another’s views and values. But others can cause you to question what you know to be true.

Peers can also have a positive influence such as when a student in a science class teaches others an easy way to remember the planets, or when someone on the soccer team teaches a cool trick with the ball. Peers positively influence each other every day.

Negative peer pressure is more worrisome than positive peer pressure because it causes an internal struggle between right and wrong. So why do teens give in to negative peer pressure? Some give in because they want to be liked, to fit in or they worry that other kids may make fun of them for not going along with the group. Others go along because they are curious to try something new. The idea that “everyone is doing it” can influence some kids to leave their better judgment behind.

Here are a few strategies you can use to help your teen stay true to themselves and make good choices.

  • Talk with your teen about how difficult it is to say no to peer pressure. Bring your message to life with personal examples, which help teens learn how to approach those situations that cause mixed emotions.
  • Help your child understand that making the right decision isn’t the end of all friendships or the beginning of being a social outcast.
  • Guide your teen to see the bigger picture and larger consequences of her decisions. Building inner strength and self-confidence can help her stand firm, walk away and resist doing things when she knows better. This also makes the teen more mindful about the consequences of cutting class or trying drugs and alcohol.
  • Encourage your teens to seek others who are willing to say no. Just one person can take a lot of the power from peer pressure. It is important to have friends with similar values who will back your teen when negative peer pressure comes.
  • Lastly, the inevitable will probably occur, and your teen will make a wrong decision and follow the crowd. Be realistic and don’t shame her. It is important to discuss why she made the decision and how it was harmful. The idea is to continue communicating and building trust for her to come talk to you about social dilemmas and issues. Placing your child on the defensive only causes her to shut you out. Consistent consequences are a must. They help teens learn to set boundaries and hold themselves accountable when making decisions. Communicate your values. Share your stories and give your teens the tools they need to learn, apply and improve their decision-making under pressure.

Hannah Nail Coble works in the Behavioral Health Outpatient Center of Cone Health MedCenter Kernersville. Send questions to Sherri McMillen at sherri.mcmillen@conehealth.com.

 

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