Eight ways for parents to support their teens when it comes to peer pressure.
Many parents and carers may remember that teen feeling of wanting to fit in, wanting to please, wanting to be part of the cool crowd, the sporty crowd, the whatever-it-was crowd.
The pressures of today’s tweens and teens are magnified by the echo chamber of social media – what to wear, how to act, who to emulate, what opinion to hold. From diets and clothes to friends, activities and other new experiences there are so many opportunities for teens to feel pressurised by their peers.
So how can you help your teen navigate the inevitable peer pressures of their world with confidence, without triggering fears that they will alienate themselves from their peer group.
The key support you can give as a parent is in the hours, days and years before they get put in a predicament. Take a look at our 8 tips for enabling your teens to stand up to peer pressure:
- Ensure your child always knows they can use you as the excuse to pull out of something they don’t want to be part of. The blame game is easier if ‘horrible parents who don’t understand’ are laying down rules which your teen just can’t break. Regularly repeat this option as a handy opt out and offer it up as a solution before occasions if your teen seems troubled by the direction an activity or friendship might take them.
- Discuss with them possible ‘off-the-shelf outs’ and coping strategies. As with the parental out above, think together of other excuses. Depending on the circumstance, ideas can range from blaming curfews, allergies, needing the loo (and even calling parents from there, if necessary), suggesting they do something else instead, or with issues like smoking, an ‘out’ excuse could be along the lines of they’ve tried it before but it just made them vomit.
Ask them for their ideas by asking questions like: “What do you feel is the pressure? How are you feeling it? What are your ideas for getting out of a difficult situation?” This will help to develop self-awareness and their independent thinking/judgement. Then actually practice and role-play their ideas, odd as that sounds! Having excuses ready will give them time to think, get away or extricate themselves from any peer pressurised situation while saving ‘face’ and giving them the confidence to walk away.
- Discuss risk, responsibility and consequences. Keep praising sensible choices they make. This will help to empower them to consider the consequences of their actions and say ‘no’ with confidence if a time comes when they’re feeling pressure to do something they don’t feel comfortable with.
- Keep reinforcing the validity and importance of following their own thoughts and feelings. It will help if you can model listening and validating their opinions, encouraging them to have confidence that their instinctive judgements are worth sticking to.
- Encourage positive friendships with other teens who have confidence to resist peer pressure. There’s safety - and confidence - in numbers!
- Give independence in incremental stages. Your teen is far more likely to make good choices if they can learn how in small steps. Going from lockdown to an unsupervised party could well result in your teen being overwhelmed at some point by pressure to do something they wouldn’t normally. If they’ve had smaller opportunities to test their independence and get confident at making their own choices, the chances are they will be better equipped to stand firm in the face of any unwanted pressure.
- Stick to those boundaries. We all know that teens are programmed to push their boundaries and while it’s often wise and practical to pick battles, it is equally important to stick to key boundaries. If you (and partner, if relevant) can stick together on these, it will help them focus on knowing the right from wrong and encourage them to stay within the parameters and know the lines not to cross.
- Let them know it’s ok to make mistakes, that you expect them to make mistakes, that you’ll help them to rectify and learn from their mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process.
Rather like Spiderman, the bottom line is that with greater independence comes great responsibility. To have the confidence to resist peer pressure, teens need to know that actions have consequences, but they have options, so they should always take a minute to consider them and make a good choice, even if that is simply having the confidence to walk away.
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