Help Your Child Stay Out Of Peer Pressure
The desire to fit in and feel like you are part of a group is normal, and most people feel this way sometimes, especially in the teen and young adult years. Peer pressure- that feeling that you have to do something to fit in, be accepted, or be respected, can be tough to deal with. It can be overt (i.e, friends telling you to do something) or less direct (e.g, friends joking around about your not doing what they are doing, seeing others doing stuffs and feeling left out if you don’t, knowing a friend tried tramadol and feeling curious about it).
While peer pressure can be helpful at times (e.g, recognising that your friends are studying more than you are as a motivator for you to work harder, noticing that your rebellion is more extreme than your friends’ and deciding to cut back), it can also cause you to do things you may not be sure about, or even things that you don’t really think are right for you. Dealing with this pressure can be challenging, but it’s important to teach kids to always reflect on their own personal values and preferences and make decisions based on those rather than on peer pressure.
Managing peer pressure is usually not that difficult if you are only surrounded by people whose values, preferences, and behaviours are similar to yours. However, in a school environment, it’s very likely that your child will meet people with a wide variety of attitudes and behaviours. At times, it may feel easy for them to know where they stand and act accordingly, but at other times, they might feel confused, pressured, or tempted to act against their own judgment.
What’s more; school may be a time when children are away from home and family with more freedom to make their own choices than before. They might even feel a desire to do things your family doesn’t do or doesn’t think are okay as a way to establish their own identity and try new things.
Again, it’s important to teach children to reflect on what they think is important, their values, and who they want to be. It’s also good to teach them to try and think ahead to potential consequences of an action. If you go with the crowd and do something you might not have considered before, what would happen? Could there be a negative outcome? Could you feel bad about yourself for acting against your values or judgment? All important considerations!
When it comes to pressures around alcohol, drug use and trying out pre-marital cohabitation, something else to think about is that most students overestimate how many of their peers are involved in this misbehaviour. The truth is that knowing the facts can help to resist pressures based on the idea that “everyone is doing it” and that you must do too to fit in.
When faced with overt or indirect pressure to do something you’re not sure about, teach your child to use the following strategies:
Give himself permission to avoid people or situations that don’t feel right and leave a situation that becomes uncomfortable. Work on setting boundaries. It’s okay for you to do what is best for you.
Check in with himself. Ask, “How am I feeling about this?” “Does this seem right to me?” “What are the pros and cons of making this decision?”
Recognise unhealthy dynamics: It’s not okay for others to pressure, force, or trick you into doing things you don’t want to or for others to make threats if you don’t give in. It’s not okay for others to mock, belittle, shame, or criticise you for your choices. You can ask others to stop these behaviours, or you can choose to avoid spending time with people who act in these ways.
Spend time with people who respect their decisions and won’t put unfair pressure on them to conform.
Remember that they can’t (and don’t have to) please everyone or be liked by everyone. This can be hard to accept, but it helps to try.
When people or situations that make them feel pressured are not avoidable, they can try the “delay tactic”: Give themselves time to think about their decision instead of giving an immediate answer: “Let me think about that,” “Can I get back to you?” or “Check back with me in an hour.”
When they can’t avoid or delay a pressure-filled situation, practice saying “No thanks” or just “No!” If “no” feels uncomfortable, they can practice using other responses, such as “Not today,” “Maybe another time,” or “Thanks, but I can’t.”
It’s okay to use an excuse if the truth is too challenging. For example, if someone offers you a drink and you want to say no but feel awkward, say you’re on a strict diet or have to get up early the next day.
Take a friend who supports you along if you are going to be in a pressure-filled situation and let them know what your intentions are (e.g, “I don’t want to drink, so if you see me about to, remind me that I wanted to stay sober”).
Stand up for others when you see them being pressured. “Bystander intervention” (stepping in to help out when you see someone in trouble) can be an effective way to support others and send a message. If you don’t feel comfortable directly confronting the person doing the pressuring, try distracting them or inviting the person being pressured to do something else (e.g., “Hey, come to the ladies room with me” or “Let’s go over there and take a selfie”).
Ask for advice or support from a parent or other trusted family member, a clergy person, a mentor, or a counselor if you need it.
As a new school year begins, allow children to think for themselves. Remind them that what they get is all about the choices they make. Choose wisely!