Will These Kids Give in to Peer-Pressure | What Would Your Kid Do?
Kids Dealing With Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is an undeniable force in your child's life. Here's how to talk to your child about dealing with peer pressure.
By Gina Roberts-Grey
Medically Reviewed by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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Teens and tweens rely on their friends for everything from companionship to compassion. Some estimates say the average American teenager spends approximately 20 to 25 hours per week, not counting classroom time, with friends. That gives peers a lot of power.
Kids, like adults, yearn to be accepted by others. “Adolescents define themselves more by their peer group than their family group,” says Charlotte Reznick, PhD, child-education psychologist, associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA, and author ofThe Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety Into Joy and Success.
That desire to fit in can lead kids to cave to peer pressure. Although parents often see their children's bravado, many kids aren’t able to assert themselves face-to-face with their peers. “They may not have formed their own opinions or be certain what it is they value,” says Dr. Reznick. In fact, many value “fitting in” and will give in to peer pressure to be part of “the crowd.”
Kids seeking approval can easily make poor choices about substance use, sexuality, and other behaviors. “But parents can teach their kids skills to cope with peer pressure,” says Donna Londino, MD, associate professor in the Division of Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital and medical director of Inpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services at MCGHealth.
Neutralizing Peer Pressure
The best way to deal with peer pressure is to prepare your child for it. “Tell your child peer pressure is a normal part of adolescence,” says Dr. Londino. Talk about how peer pressure may influence your child to make decisions he wouldn’t otherwise make, and explain that it’s okay to say no to peers. “Emphasize that you’re available to rescue them if their 'no' puts them in a precarious predicament," adds Londino, such as not having a ride or being left somewhere alone.
To better cope with peer pressure, Londino suggests role-playing responses to friends' inappropriate, illegal, or dangerous requests (e.g., being offered drugs, tobacco, or alcohol). Talk about peer-pressure coping tips you’ve used. “Slip in stories about relatives or other positive role models who’ve faced peer pressure,” suggests Reznick. Discuss “frenemies” too (someone who is half friend and half enemy). Frenemies notoriously pressure kids into experimenting with smoking, drinking, or sexual behaviors, claiming, “if you’re 'cool' you’ll do it.” They may also exert peer pressure on a child to lie, shoplift, or even try drugs.
If your child is the victim of a “frenemy,” make sure he understands it is not his fault. “Talk about ways of responding to peer pressure, including encouraging your child to walk away from friendships built on peer pressure and those that can harm him,” says Reznick.
Don’t just talk, listen too. “Remember what it’s like to be a teen,” says Londino, and stress that you understand the peer pressure that kids today face.
Fostering Positive Friendships
Not all peer pressure is bad. One of the best defenses against negative peer pressure is positive peer pressure. “Encourage your child to find a circle of friends who are capable of sticking up for their own ideas,” says Reznick.
Positive peer-pressure friendships often sprout from a common interest, like being in the same theatrical production or playing the same sport. Positive peer-pressure can support a child’s drive to reach goals, whether it’s athletic or academic. To forge these kinds of healthy friendships, suggest your child coordinate a fun thing to do with a group, such as going hiking or to a movie everyone wants to see. Even the old-fashioned idea of baking batches of homemade cookies can be a positive, friendship-building activity.
Video: Messsage to my kids about peer pressure
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