The urge for children to conform to their peers is a normal stage in their pre-teenager and teenager years. At this stage, children start looking to their peers to help them figure out what may feel like everything – from what clothes to wear to how serious to be about school. You can play an important role in this process by helping your teenagers learn to make good choices when they’re being influenced—for better or worse—by their peers.
The one thing that seems to make all adolescents vulnerable to peer pressure is simply being in this age range. They want to do what others are doing, and have what other young people in their peer group have. They especially don’t want to feel awkward or uncomfortable around their friends. They are afraid of being bullied, rejected or made fun of. They often act on impulse and do not realise the full consequences of their actions on themselves and others until it is too late and they don’t know how to get out of pressure situations. This can unfortunately this can lead to risky behavior, such as anti-social behavior, smoking, underage drinking or drug taking amongst other this.
What can parents do to help?
Do not take your teenagers challenging behavior personally: As normal as it is for adolescents to go along with their peers, it can be just as normal for parents to take their children’s challenging behavior personally. Just try to remember that teenagers aren’t so much rejecting you as they are trying to establish their own identity.
Support your teenager: Adolescents still need a parent’s help to make good decisions—even if they don’t act like it. Help them become the people you hope they can be by helping them learn to say “no.” It can be hard to resist the pressure to engage in risky behavior when other teenagers are doing it too. Before your teenager finds themselves in one of these situations, role-play with them. Help your kids figure out how to respond when someone says to them, “Come on and have a drink with us. It’s way more fun than studying. Or are you too chicken?” or “I really like you a lot. Let’s text each other some pictures of ourselves naked. It’s called sexting. Everybody’s doing it.”
Develop good self-esteem. Take time to praise your child and celebrate his or her achievements. Children who feel good about themselves are more likely to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices.
Support your child to choose their friends wisely. This means online friends too. Lots of people (peers and adults) try to pressure teenagers to make bad choices. But if your children have friends with good values and good self-esteem, they can help your kids make sense of new technology, stay away from risky behavior, and resist unwanted peer pressure.
Create special code words. These are special words your teenager can use when they want your help but don’t want their friends to know they’re asking you for it. For example, if they don’t feel comfortable at a party, they can call or text you with an agreed-upon phrase like, “Mom, I have a really bad earache. Can you come get me?”
Use you as an excuse. Let your teenagers know that if they ever face peer pressure they don’t know how to resist, they can always refuse by blaming you: “My parents will ground me for a month if I do that.
Top Tips for Parents on handling teen peer pressure
Stay calm: If your teenager wants to do something you don’t agree with, try not to overreact. Dying their hair purple or wearing sloppy clothes can seem like your children are rebelling. Compare this kind of behavior with how your teenagers are doing in school, who their friends are, and how maturely they usually behave. If they’re doing well in these other areas, try not to get upset, and resist the urge to judge or lecture them.
Stay informed: Pay attention to the substances that teenagers are using, the way they dress, and how they’re using the latest smart phones, social media, and other technologies. The more you know, the better you can protect your teenagers and help them learn to make good decisions. Webwise.ie is a helpful website to help you understand the technology that teens are using today.
Stay in your teenager’s life: Even though they may not act like it, most children this age still listen to their parents. Keep talking to them—about their interests, accomplishments, and friends; about the music they listen to; and about the things that bother them. Let them know you care, but make it clear that you expect them to follow certain rules. And keep planning family activities that include them.
This article was contributed by Hospital Family Resource Centre, a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.