Teens and pre-teens often seem to look for risky behavior. The teen years are the time most people first experiment with drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous games or activities, like eating disorders or huffing. Every parent wants to protect their child, and the good news is that there are things parents can do to help their child deal with peer pressure.
1. Talk to your teen. Every teen will be faced with some kind of peer pressure in their life, and it is important for parents to talk to their child before this happens so that they are prepared. Start when your child is young and continue with the talks through their teenage years. Take time to tell your child about the dangers of drugs, eating disorders, and other dangerous trends, and keep the conversations open so your teen feels comfortable talking to you about it any time.
2. Give them positive role models. Parents can help their kids avoid dangerous activities by modeling healthy behavior. Set a good example for them by taking care of yourself, managing stress in healthy ways, and being responsible about your drinking. Encourage your teen to also find like-minded friends that will avoid drugs with them.
3. Give them excuses. It’s not enough to tell your child to just say no to drugs. Teens need concrete examples of ways to resist peer pressure. As part of your talks, give your teen excuses they can use when faced with the temptation to do drugs or other dangerous activities. Some parents choose to role play with their child so they can rehearse exactly what to do when faced with the situation.
4. Build up their confidence. One reason many teens are so susceptible to peer pressure is that they lack the confidence to go against the flow. Kids follow the crowd because they are afraid they won’t be accepted if they aren’t like everyone else. Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia in teenagers are common because these young people lack self respect and confidence in themselves. In order to build up your child’s confidence, be slow to criticize and quick to compliment. Help your child see their good qualities and talents, and teach them that everyone struggles with feelings of inadequacy at times. Above all, be the listening ear when your child feels insufficient.
5. Keep them busy. Teens and pre-teens that have responsibilities and commitments outside of school will be more likely to avoid peer pressure at school. Activities like sports, the theatre, and even work help keep kids from being overly concerned about what other kids are doing. Extracurricular activities give kids things to do after school instead of getting caught up with drugs or other activities.
It is difficult for youth to stay strong when faced by negative peer pressure. Parents can make it easier by preparing them before the pressure starts, and by helping them stay confident with themselves and their decision to stay clean along the way.
Bethany Winkel is a freelance writer who specializes in topics related to drug and alcohol addiction.