November 01, 2018
How Parents Can Help Teens Deal with Peer Pressure
Will Gilyard, Dean of Students
All adolescents face peer pressure that can lead them to engage in irresponsible and dangerous behavior. This can take the form of pressure to drink, use drugs, smoke, drive recklessly, or cheat on a test.
Several recent studies have shown that the widespread use of social media has lowered the self-esteem of many teenagers and thus increased their need to be hyper-connected to one another and has heightened their fear of missing out (FOMO) on a social activity or event. This can increase their susceptibility to making a decision that might put them at risk.
Parents can play a major role in helping their children cope with peer pressure. We all have different parenting styles, of course, but here are a few keys that may be helpful to all parents as they talk with their children.
- Give your child permission to use you as the “bad guy.”
Even though you want your child to be able to stand up for what’s right, it can be challenging for a pre-teen or teenager to respond to peer pressure with a strong “No!” So give your child permission to say, “My parents will flip out if I do that. When I got in trouble the last time, they grounded me for a month.”
- Show that you trust your child’s decision-making.
Your child wants to be able to make good decisions, and they want you to have faith that they will. So off-hand comments such as, “I don’t like X and Y because they are going to get you into trouble,” implies that your child will be led by the nose and is unable to make a positive choice.
So saying instead, “I am worried about your hanging out with X and Y because they make poor decisions, but I’m happy that they have you as a positive influence,” will convey respect for your child and will contribute to self-esteem and independence.
- Model the behavior that you want your child to exhibit.
Don’t try to be the “cool” parent who is hosting a drinking party with other people’s children. You are the adult, and although it may seem safer to have kids drinking in your house under your supervision rather than in a parking lot or car, this sends the message that it’s OK to drink at the house of other parents who may not provide the close supervision you do. And remember that it’s illegal to allow anyone under 21 to consume alcohol on your property.
- Allow your child to make mistakes and face the consequences.
When peer pressure leads your child to make a mistake, such as cheating or drinking or driving too fast, it’s wise to let them experience the consequences of the poor decision, whether it’s external punishment imposed by you, the school, or the police, or whether it’s internal, self-imposed emotions, such as guilt, shame or letting down teachers, coaches or parents.
- Put your foot down
Sometimes you simply have to tell your child that you are the adult and that what you say goes. The child might argue against your decision but nevertheless knows that there is a line that cannot be crossed and that you care enough about him or her to draw it.
For further information about helping teens deal with peer pressure, please go to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/teen-angst/201201/arguing-mom-may-help-teens-resist-peer-pressure
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