5 Ways Parents Can Help Their Teen Overcome Peer Pressure

As a parent, you see it all the time. Overnight, your teen has a new profound interest in the latest gadget or fashion style you’ve never heard of. That iPhone 4s you gave them last year is an “embarrassment” to have in public and now they want purple highlights in their hair. It all becomes so clear when their BFF (best friend forever) comes over to visit and proudly displays their new hair style and an iPhone 5 with a customized case. Close friends can exert a tremendous amount of influence even if they’re not trying to do so. We are social creatures and those we choose to spend our time with will, to a certain degree, shape our opinions, actions, and interests. As tweens become teens and new adult ideas such as parties, alcohol, sex, and drugs emerge, the pressure to fit in increases. Fortunately, parents and family members have equal or more power to influence teens than their summer 2013 BFF. How can you help your teenager overcome peer pressure? Try these 5 ways to help.

1. Build Decision Making Skills:

Imagine this scenario. You’ve never smoked a cigarette or even really thought about it. On the way to the mall, your best friend pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights one up. He explains that his older brother gave it to him and asks you if you want to try one. Decision Time. If your teen is not accustomed to making decisions for him or herself, a situation like this puts them in an uncomfortable and anxiety riddled state. The easiest way out of this situation is to take the cigarette. Peer pressuring situations comes down to decision making. Help your teen develop decision making skills by asking them for their input on a regular basis. Talk through the pros and cons of the decision and potential benefits and consequences. Get your teen in the habit of thinking things through and weighing choices.

2. Don’t Be Your Teen’s BFF:

This is a common mistake parents make and an easy trap to fall into especially as your child develops into adolescence. Nobody likes being the bad guy or seeing their teenager upset, but at this time in their life, your teen needs a parent, not another friend.  Teenagers will make mistakes and succumb to peer pressure. Make sure you have clearly expressed rules and boundaries for teens with consistent punishments. Talk through your teen’s decision making process that lead to the mistake and enforce the consequences firmly. The more you are your teenager’s friend the harder it will be for you to take this parental stance and the more push back you’ll get when you try. 

3. Have Conversations Early:

 Ask your child, tween, or teenager what they would say or do if one of their friends started drinking or doing drugs. Would you confront them about it? Would that upset you? What if they pressured you to do it? Having these types of role playing moments with your children can help prepare them for future peer pressuring situation. Use these conversations to let your teenager know where you stand on these issues and educate them on the consequences. Tell them that they will feel intense pressure to do things they feel unsure about or just plain don’t want to do and that although the easiest way to resolve the anxiety produced by the situation is to give in that choice will have longer term and more lasting negative consequences.

4. Teach the Value of Friendships:

Help your teenager take a moment to see their friendships from a broader outside prospective. Ask them what they like about specific friends and how they became friends. Help them see how just being around someone can make it easy to get in trouble. “I noticed every time you get written up in class, you were messing around with Susan. And every time you get written up, we take away your iPhone for a week.” You’re not telling them to not talk to Susan but helping them notice something about how they tend to behave when they are with a friend. Different friends bring out different qualities and behaviors in people. It’s one of the great reasons we have more than one friend. At the same time be careful not to blame your teenager’s behavior on someone else.  In the end, your teenager still made the decision that got them in trouble.  The proper response doesn’t have to be “don’t hang out with that kid anymore” it could be “it’s easy to get in trouble when you’re around that kid so be careful about how you want them to be a part of your life”.  It doesn’t have to come down to friend or no friend, it’s about what kind of friend, when, where and how to be friends.  We all know people whose friendships we value but who we wouldn’t trust in certain situations.  If your teenager can work out how to be friends with someone and still protect themselves from destructive elements in that person they may even develop an ability to be a positive influence in somebodies life! Another great scenario you may see with this approach that your teenager makes the decision not to hang out that that person anymore because it’s not worth the hassle to them.  You’re not the bad guy and they learn something very valuable.  It’s a win-win.

5. Don’t shelter them from peer pressure:

  As a parent you can’t protect your teens from the real world and in some cases you really shouldn’t.  The teenage years are a great time to learn to handle issues surrounding peer pressure.  Don’t rob your teenager of the chance to learn from their mistakes by sheltering them from the slightest possibility that they could follow some bad advice from friends.  Remember your job is to help them learn a lesson about peer pressure not to protect them from it.  You can be helpful and show love to your teenager by being firm with rules and consequences and by helping them see how peer pressure could have played a role in their mistake.  

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By Miguel Brown

Miami Teen Counseling