Helping teens cope with peer pressure

When children grow into teens, they suddenly care more about what their friends think than what their parents think. And sometimes this new attitude can lead to tension at home.

It’s perfectly normal for teenagers to want to copy their friends and blend in with their social group.

But what happens when, in order to blend in, they must dye their hair three colours and get a tattoo? Dealing with peer pressure in your teen’s life earlier rather than later can make for a much more pleasant home life. Here are some tips for helping them through this difficult but inescapable stage of development:

  • Identify peer pressure when you see it happening, but not in a negative way. Instead of saying, “You just want to get your ears pierced because all your friends are,” say, “I’m listening to you, but first let’s talk through the pros and cons of getting your ears pierced and make an informed decision about it together.” That way you can teach your child how to break down each decision and think about it before rushing off and doing it just because everyone else is.

  • Don’t put their friends down because you think they look terrible or are badly behaved. Friends are incredibly important at this age for teenagers, because they’re learning new social skills and building relationships. You’re better off inviting their friends into your home and getting to know them, even if they don’t fit your ideal image of a teenager. Better the devil you know.

  • If you feel like your child is struggling to cope with peer pressure to smoke, drink or take drugs, encourage them to team up with another friend who may not want to do any of these things. Two friends can resist peer pressure better than one.

  • Do encourage your teenager to talk to you about the stress they’re under. All teenagers experience peer pressure about sexual behaviour and occasionally experimentation with drugs and alcohol, so educating your child on these subjects by talking with them will make it easier for them to make informed decisions.

  • Let your child have the freedom to make their own decisions, even if that’s scary for you. Being a teenager is all about learning skills for adult life, so you need to let your teenager practise making decisions. Always be there to lend advice but don’t be tempted to pull them in too close to protect them from making a bad decision.

  • Choose your arguments. You might not like their music, the clothes they wear or the way they speak, but in the wider scheme of things these aren’t life-threatening. So let them have their individuality and concentrate instead on being there for them with the big stuff, if or when it happens.

  • Be there day and night and let them know that you’re available to talk. Teenagers who receive little support or interest from home are more likely to be influenced by a peer group. So take an interest, tell them you’re there for them at any hour of the day, whether it’s picking them up from a party, no questions asked, or just spending an hour or two in the middle of the day talking about things.

  • Arm your teenager with the strategies to be able to say no. often talking through some possible situations they might encounter can help them work out a good way to get out safely.

  • If you feel that your teenager isn’t really interested in talking to you about their problems, call in siblings, family members or friends who you sense could provide support and mentoring for your child. And don’t take it personally. Not all kids feel like sharing with their parents.

  • Accept that sometimes your teenager will stuff up. They’re still learning about how to make the right decisions, so remember to reward them when they make a good choice. And if they make a bad choice, don’t put them down or make them feel negative. oove on and help them learn from mistakes without having to deal with your anger as well.

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