Talking to Children About Peer Pressure

Dad talking to crying daughter

As your children get older, they will start to care more about what their friends think and how others perceive them. Your child may feel pressured in good ways. For example, he or she may try out for a new sport or start learning how to play an instrument. However, your child might also feel pressured in bad ways, such as skipping class or cheating on a test. These types of activities can have negative impacts on your child’s education and academic success. Additionally, your teen may feel pressured into partaking in illicit activities, such as shoplifting, drug use, or underage drinking. The pre-teen and teenage years can be a challenging time for parents as they might feel like they are out of touch with their child. Here are some healthy ways to talk to your child about peer pressure and some strategies for your child to overcome it:

How to talk to your child:

  • Stay calm. It is important to listen to what your child is telling you and not overreact. Teens just want to be heard and respected, and they may tell you something you weren’t prepared to hear or might not like. It is important to acknowledge your children’s feelings, listen to them, and encourage them to come up with their own solutions.
  • Talk about what being a friend means. Ask questions about what makes a good friend and if your child feels as if he or she can trust a new person he or she has just met and wants to be around. Ask your teen why this person holds so much power over other people. Encourage your teens to be themselves and find peers who accept them for who they are.
  • Get to know your child’s friends. Invite your child’s friends over for a sleepover or dinner. Talk to them about their interests. Showing your child that you are interested and invested in his or her life and friendships may encourage your child to have more honest communication with you. Also, if issues arise with your child’s friends, you can talk to their parents and work together to address any concerns.
  • Model saying “no.” Show your child that it is okay to say no to something you don’t want to do. Practice saying no with your child, and equip your child with the skills he or she will need to follow through when the time comes. Remember to praise and encourage your child when he or she makes healthy choices.

Strategies for your child:

  • Pay attention to your emotions and gut feelings. If you feel like something is not right – chances are it isn’t. Pay attention to your feelings. The more in-tune you are with your emotions, the better you will be at identifying them, staying calm in stressful situations, and remaining in control.
  • Find a friend who also says no. It can be hard to be the only person saying no. Find a friend who is also willing to say no to skipping class or smoking a cigarette, and spend time with this person doing something you both enjoy. There is strength in numbers, and you may find that more people may be joining you than going out for a smoke!
  • Talk to someone you trust. If you continue to feel pressured, talk to a teacher, counselor, parent, or friend about the situation. You will find it is helpful to talk through your emotions with someone you trust and on whom you rely. These people can help you practice saying no, learn to say no in a different way, or help you come up with alternative solutions to saying no.

Additional Resources

Kids Health in the Classroom, Activities for Avoiding Peer Pressure: http://classroom.kidshealth.org/6to8/personal/growing/peer_pressure.pdf

Livestrong Peer Pressure Activity Guide: http://www.livestrong.com/article/562522-activities-for-a-peer-pressure-retreat-for-teens/

References

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2012). Peer pressure. Retrieved from https://www.aacap.org/aacap/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Peer_Pressure_104.aspx

Berl, R. (2013). How to help your kids handle peer pressure. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2013/04/29/how-to-help-your-kids-handle-peer-pressure

GreatSchools Staff. (2017). 6 ways to help your child deal with peer pressure. Retrieved from https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/6-tips-resisting-peer-pressure/

Kidshealth.org. (n.d.) Dealing with peer pressure. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/peer-pressure.html#

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