Peers are vital in a teen’s social and emotional development. It is completely natural, healthy, and important for teenagers to be sociable and have friends to rely on as they grow. As much as possible, we want our children to interact with peers who give out positive energy, who are supportive, and can help them develop and participate in appropriate interests and activities. However, do note that all kids are different, and some might influence your children adversely, pressuring them to engage in unwanted actions to ‘fit in.’
Negative peer pressure, especially in teenagers, is real and it is high time that you teach your teenagers how to deal with them before the situation escalates for the worse.
What is Peer Pressure?
Peer pressure is the direct or indirect influence wielded by people of the same social group.
This term also refers to the influence that the peer members have on a person, such as influencing a certain behavior, interest, attitude, or value to be accepted by the group.
Usually, peer pressure has a negative connotation but keep in mind that peer pressure is not always a bad thing since it can also be used to positively influence people.
If your children are in peer groups where they are pushed and encouraged towards better things, then they are positively influenced and this can help them socially and academically.
However, negative peer pressure is more prevalent than you think. Your child is looking to fit in in school, doesn’t want to be rejected or teased, wants to make friends, or is unsure of how to get out of an undesirable situation and so they are pressured into doing bad things, such as substance abuse, cheating, stealing, or acquiring risky behaviors.
Peer Pressure in Children
One of the best ways to start preparing your child for peer pressure is to start explaining things while they are still young. When they are in preschool, tell them to not copy bad behavior and when they get a bit older, talk to them about smoking, drugs, alcohol so that when they reach middle school or high school, they are already aware of the consequences of these actions.
Adults are not immune to peer pressure and unfortunately, the effect of peer pressure can have lasting consequences. This is why it is important to teach your children how to deal with it while they are still young so they can bring these learnings with them as they grow.
It’s never too early to prepare so here are helpful tips on how to handle peer pressure in children.
Prepare age-appropriate situations
When discussing with your child, make sure you are giving examples they can relate to and understand. For younger children, it could be discouraging them from excluding or teasing aloof classmates just because the rest are doing it and for older kids, it could be dissuading them from skipping class or from trying smoking or drugs.
Tell them of the possible consequence if they were to engage in such acts and provide specific age-appropriate examples of usual situations so your child will understand better and this results in them being more prepared.
Establish family rules
If the family has clear household rules, your children are more likely to bring these rules outside. Establish certain rules such as kindness, generosity, and helpfulness. If kindness is a family rule, teasing or bullying classmates goes against that so this makes it harder for your child to do. Household rules can also be a ground for your children to refuse negative peer pressure or any undesirable requests or demands of their peers.
Teach them to say ‘no’
There will come a time when saying ‘no’ is almost impossible to do, especially when your children grow to their teenage years where peer pressure can be seen left and right. When they are still young, teach your children to say ‘no’ to actions or things that are bad for them.
To reinforce this, roleplay with them. Help and teach your kids how to respond when someone offers them, for example, to skip class and drink instead or encouraging them to bully a loner classmate.
Choose the right friends
The negative or positive effect of peer pressure all boils down to the peer group itself. This is why it is of utmost importance to encourage your children to be selective of their friends. Discuss with them to look for friends who share similar interests, values, and ethics. However, be careful with teaching your child in doing this as this can lead to them unconsciously disregarding or omitting classmates.
Discuss dangerous behaviors
When your children know the facts relating to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, they are more likely to make better decisions when they are tempted to try. As parents, don’t wait for your children to discover the consequences and risks themselves. When it comes to bad behaviors, it is better to present them with facts head-on.