There’s no denying that the teenage years are among the most difficult in a person’s life. Sometimes, they can be just as difficult for the parents of a teenager. The older your child gets, the more social interactions they’ll have, and the more likely they are to find a social group they want to fit in with. Many teenagers have a hard time during this phase of their life because they want to establish their own identity, yet they also want to feel like they belong to a group.
As parents, we all want the best for our children, and we hope they surround themselves with the right kind of people. However, when it comes to fitting in and being part of a social group, peer pressure will always be an issue, especially for teens. If you have a teenager in your life, just hearing the term peer pressure may make you nervous. The teenage years are often difficult for both teens and everyone around them. In order to equip your children to deal with peer pressure, it’s crucial to understand what it is and how it might affect them.
What is peer pressure?
Peer pressure is a term used to describe the influence members of a social group can have on one another, especially in the context of participating in a prohibited activity. Peer influence can be positive as well, but peer pressure typically carries negative connotations. You wouldn’t normally say your teen was peer-pressured into getting good grades or trying out for the sports team.
Sometimes peer pressure is direct and can easily be spotted. A peer may pressure your child into doing something illegal, such as shoplifting or drinking, by simply telling them what to do and making them think they would be “uncool” if they refuse. Peer pressure can often be more subtle and harder to detect. Many teenagers feel compelled to dress or act in a certain way because everyone around them does it, and they feel pressured to conform. Their peers may pass subtle comments or treat them differently, which is an indirect way of pressuring them to mimic the rest of the group.
Who are your child’s peers?
Your child’s peers are those in the same social group, so for teenagers, they are typically students of their age. They may attend the same school or participate in activities with your child. It’s important to note that peer pressure doesn’t necessarily end after the teenage years and even adults can be subjected to it.
Peer pressure can be an issue for college students as well, especially for students who may be far away from their family and the rest of their support system. However, talking about peer pressure to teens is crucial because it’s typically the time when children first experience it. If they learn how to properly deal with it during these difficult years, they’ll be able to handle it again in the future.
Is peer influence always negative?
Although it usually implies influence to do socially unacceptable things, such as drink alcohol or do drugs, peer pressure is not always negative. Peers can influence each other in many positive ways, and this can be one of the most powerful influences a teenager can have.
It’s the “pressure” part of the term that has negative connotations. It implies that a child is being pushed or persuaded to do something they are hesitant or unwilling to do. Unfortunately, no matter what you teach your kids, they can succumb to peer pressure in certain situations because caring about what their peers think more than anything else is the norm for many teenagers.
How to talk to your teenager about peer pressure
The truth is that no matter how much we want to protect our kids, we can’t shield them from everything. Even if you teach your child to have strong values and stand up for what they believe in, it’s still likely they’ll be affected by peer pressure at some point in their life. The best thing you can do as a parent is to teach them how to deal with it and give them the tools to use if the need ever arises. Here are some ways in which you can help your child handle peer pressure.
- Tell them it’s okay to say no. The first step to challenging peer pressure is teaching your child when to say no. If they’re offered something that makes them uncomfortable, their first line of defense is to say no and hold firm in their refusal.
- Help them plan what to say. There will be times when “no” isn’t enough. Having appropriate responses for occasions when they’re pressured into doing something can be another line of defense. If a peer offers your child an alcoholic drink and doesn’t take no for an answer, they don’t owe this person an explanation. However, having a few lines prepared may help your child be more confident in standing up for themselves in a similar situation.
- Teach them how real friends should act. Part of the reason teenagers are so susceptible to peer pressure is that most of them want to fit in with their peers and belong to a social group. When peer pressure comes from a person or a group of people your child wants to be friends with, it’s especially important to teach your child that a true friend wouldn’t force them to do something they’re uncomfortable with.
- Give them an escape route. When your child ends up in an awkward situation, they may hesitate to call you if they feel they might get in trouble. Make it perfectly clear that it’s always okay to call should they find themselves in a troubling situation and emphasize that your priority is making sure they’re safe. Let them know you’d be proud of them for trusting their gut and trying to remove themselves from a situation where they were pressured to do something disagreeable to them.
Peer pressure in kids’ sports
If a student is being influenced by their peers to participate in sports, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being part of a sports team can be a learning experience for many children and teens. It gives them the opportunity to learn teamwork and build confidence.
In case your child is part of a sports team, know that there are times when they may be peer-pressured to do things they’re uncomfortable with. For instance, when the team wins a game, your child may be pressured to go out and “celebrate” the victory. In high school sports, there may be parties and other gatherings to which many athletes would be invited. Talking to your child about how to avoid landing in such situations and how to tell when to exit can build trust between you and your teen.
Peer pressure in sports can be more subtle. Although influencing a child to participate in physical activities may not be a bad thing, sometimes there can be a lot of pressure from peers to do well during a game or while on a team. This can sometimes go beyond the normal pressure of simply wanting to win and cause unnecessary anxiety and stress in some children. Check in with your child frequently to see how they’re balancing sports with their other responsibilities and keep communication in your family open so they feel comfortable sharing when the pressure becomes too much.
Most kids will face peer pressure at some point in their lives. The best thing you can do as a parent is help your child understand peer pressure and prepare them to deal with it. Keep communication open between you and your teen and let them know they can always talk to you if they are being pressured to do something they’re uncomfortable with. Teenagers may be highly influenced by their peers, but your influence in their life is equally important for the long run.
Have you ever talked to your child about peer pressure? Did you experience peer pressure when you were in school? How was it different in your day compared to now. Our readers would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.