As your children get older, it’s natural for them to start to feel more pressure about what their friends think and how others perceive them. Even though your child can feel pressure in good ways, such as trying a new sport or learning how to play a new instrument, there’s also lots of bad ways they may feel pressured too. This can range from skipping school, cheating on a test, not doing homework, being rude to their teachers or for older teens activities such as shoplifting, smoking or underage drinking. This type of peer pressure will not only have a negative impact on your child’s education and academic success, but can get them into some serious trouble. Here are some healthy ways to talk to your child about peer pressure and some strategies for them to overcome it.
Talk About What Being A Good Friend Means
Help your child understand that a friend who is pressuring them to do something stupid, dangerous, hurtful, or illegal is not much of a friend. Together discuss what being a good friend means and ask questions about if your child feels as if they can trust a new person they’ve just met. Encourage them to just be themselves and try to find peers who accept them for who they are.
Practice Saying “No” Together
It is tough to be the only one who says "no" to peer pressure, but make sure your child knows this is always an option for them. Paying attention to their own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help them know the right thing to do in the moment. Together practice different scenarios encouraging your child to find assertive ways to say “no” if it’s something they don’t want to do. Just knowing that it’s okay to say “no” will not only give them inner strength and self-confidence to stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something stupid, but will help them build up an invaluable skill for life.
Find A Friend Who Says “No” Too
It can be hard to be the only person saying no. Encourage your child to find a friend who is also willing to say “no” to being pressured into something, and get them to prioritise spending time with this person over friends who are pressuring them or acting out to get attention. Remember - there is strength in numbers, and your child may find others who say “no" too!
Pay Attention To Gut Feelings
Discuss with your child the significance of listening to their intuition if they’re in a high-pressure situation. If your child feels like something isn’t right, chances are it isn’t. Understanding that it’s important to listen to strong emotions and gut feelings will often help kids identify a bad situation, stay calm and remain in control of their actions.
Share Your Own Experiences
Be open with your child about your own experiences with peer pressure. Share how you handled it, what you did well, plus any mistakes you made and what you learnt from it. We guarantee knowing that you went through exactly the same things will make your child stronger and more confident in their decisions when feeling pressured by their peers.
Discuss How Bad Choices Can Impact Their Future
Talk to your child about how the decisions they make now might impact them in the future. A gentle word or two about the future risks can be enough to deter silly behaviour. Even though it can be uncomfortable, it’s especially important to have open communication with your teens about the risks involved in underage drinking, smoking cigarettes, unplanned or unprotected sex and using drugs. You may not have all the answers and that’s ok, but being able to talk about it and knowing as much information as possible will help teens be able to make their own informed decisions without caving in to peer pressure.
Devise An Alternative Plan
Finally, come up with an alternative plan so if a tricky situation does arise and your child isn’t sure what to do, they still have another way out. For example, before attending a party, you agree with your child that if they feel uncomfortable or want to leave they’ll text you straight away and you will come and pick them up. Just knowing there’s always a ‘Plan B’ will be reassuring for your child if an uncomfortable situation does arise and they aren’t able to confidently say no.