Peer Pressure: Teaching Your Child about Peer Pressure
This article provides information regarding peer pressure. While many of the recommendations below are great for children and parents, some accommodations or exceptions may be made for children with learning challenges and learning disabilities. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
Drugs. Sexting. Cyberbullying. Cutting. Eating disorders. It’s a scary world out there. How many of us send our precious children to school every morning, terrified of what they’re going to pick up, or endure from their peers? Will they be able to keep sight of who they are in the face of so much pressure?
It’s not a new question. Parents have been worried about “unhealthy influences” on their kids since the time of Socrates (and probably before then). However, with the dangers more real than ever, and the pervasiveness of modern media, it’s easy to feel like teens today have it worse than ever. So how can you raise children who can resist the worst effects of peer pressure?
Before We Start… Let’s Look Closer
Although the phrase “peer pressure” summons up images of teens in the burnouts’ stairwell, offering a cigarette to a tempted newcomer, the truth is that peer pressure, at its essence, is social influence. It’s not inherently bad. In fact, it can effect really positive change! Think about the civil rights movement, or the positive influence that one good friend can have during the critical preteen years.
Addiction studies show that those who are isolated and uninfluenced by their peer group are a lot more likely to fall into harmful addictive behavior. Many psychologists are now saying that contrary to popular belief, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It’s connection. Although drug abuse education often stresses the importance of being immune to peer pressure, we’re finding that teaching kids to be isolated from other people, to be immune to social influence, can often build an environment optimal for building isolation, depression, emotional and interpersonal illiteracy, and shame.
That’s why teaching your child about peer pressure is more than just telling them to say no to drugs… it’s about encouraging them to carefully evaluate their friends, to learn communication skills and emotional literacy that will help them cope with stress and social pressure in healthy ways instead of harmful ones, and setting a pattern of conscious decision-making that will last a lifetime.
Some Tips for Teaching Peer Pressure Resilience
Cultivate Good Relationships
As we mentioned above, not all social influence is bad. One risk factor of falling prey to negative pressure is a narrow group of social contacts. This makes each relationship precious, and puts pressure on your child to please others in order to retain their relationships. Diversified social contacts can be a strength when your child is young, and throughout their lifetime.
However, every child has different social needs. If your child is not a social butterfly, that’s okay! However, they need to take a look at their social needs and learn how to make the things they want to happen. If they DO want more friends, how do they build more relationships? How do they evaluate which relationships are good and bad? How do they see to their own needs and become emotionally independent? You can help open up new friendships for your child by engaging them in different activities and programs.
Set a Good Example
Peer pressure is not the exclusive territory of teens. Children feel peer pressure far before we think they do… pretty much as soon as they notice others. And peer pressure continues long after we leave the corridors of our High School. You yourself are constantly influenced by media, friends, family, and peers.
Don’t think that your child doesn’t notice that. How do you react when people make a disparaging remark about someone else? Who are your friends and do you model relationships of mutual respect, or power plays? Do you fear the judgment of your neighbors, or worry about people at the store staring at your family if your child is making a fuss?
In these situations, your child takes note of how you react to social influence – either implicit or explicit. Take a good look at your own behavior, and try to model confidence, kindness, and careful evaluation of the social influences that you value and take into your life.
Build Strong Self-Esteem
Children can be especially vulnerable to negative peer pressure if they’ve never had practice making their own decisions and being confident in their own choices and abilities. Without internal resources and confidence, it’s easy to believe that you have to follow in order to be valued.
Let your child take responsibility at home. Give them power over their own time, their own diet, their own interests. Support their decisions and give them confidence in their own capabilities. Point out your child’s strengths when you see them in evidence. Point out when they’re being strong, when they’re being kind, when they’re making good choices, and encourage them to be more conscious of these things.
Talk With Your Child About it Early
You probably won’t be there when your child is offered drugs or alcohol. However, you can track small signs of peer pressure and encourage your child to talk about it. For example, is your child begging for a fancy new backpack? Or to get her ears pierced? Maybe because “everyone else is doing it?” We’re not saying that a new backpack is the beginning of a downhill slope. However, use this opportunity to talk with your child! Why does she want to do what everyone else is doing? Which friends does she want to be like? Has she thought about who is influencing her and whether or not she really wants them to? How far is she willing to go to fit in? What would happen if she didn’t fit in?
Teach her what she can do if friends are pressuring her to do something that makes her feel uncomfortable. Together, come up with some options for defusing the situation. Teach her that she can take her time, propose an alternative, and exit the situation if she needs to.
Remember one more very important thing: while your child’s friends and peers might become an increasingly powerful influence in his or her life, the single most powerful influencer in your child’s life is you! Cultivate your relationship with your child, and even when communication gets rocky, let them know about your love, confidence, and concern.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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