Helping Your Child Deal with Peer Pressure
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
As children move into adolescence, peers typically suppliant family members as their most important social influence. They come to believe that others their age are better able to provide understanding and sympathy. In an effort to establish some independence from their parents, they find it comforting to be part of a peer group that decides for them how to think and act.
Gaining acceptance from their peers is an overriding concern of teenagers. They strive to look, talk and act like others their age. In their desire to win peer approval, they often succumb to pressures to do what their friends are doing. Those with low self-esteem are especially vulnerable to this pressure and may have trouble sorting out right and wrong.
Standing up to peer pressure is one of the greatest challenges that children face. These pressures can become most intense during middle and high school years. At the same time, keep in mind that peer pressure can be a force for good if it encourages youngsters to engage in healthy activities such as playing sports, working hard in school and doing community service.
You can help your child deal with peer pressure by doing the following:
- Reinforce your connection with your child. She will be more likely to respect your views and better able to cope with peer pressure if she feels you are a source of support.
- Be a good role model. Children often learn more from what you from what you do than from what you say. As an example, if she sees you preoccupied with keeping pace with other adults, she will likely do the same with her peers.
- Choose your battles carefully. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Make your stand on high-risk peer behavior.
- Talk with your child. Acknowledge that you understand that it is hard to make decisions that separate her from her peers, but let your child know that they may respect and even admire her decision not to join them in an activity.
- Avoid overreacting. Extreme reactions to what your child has said may discourage her from talking with you about these issues in the future. At the same time, use these teachable moments to offer some cautions without lecturing to her. She may seem to dismiss what you say but she will hear you.
- Promote good decision-making skills. Encourage her to think through the possible consequences of the decision she is facing.
- Help your child develop responses to peers. Help her figure out what to say to peers who are pressuring her to participate in high-risk activities.
- Get to know your child’s friends. Spend some time with them and assess whether they are good role models.