How do you help your teen deal with peer pressure?


Peer pressure is an unavoidable part of adolescence, and parents need to be aware of how this affects their teen's decision-making processes. Teens want to assert their independence, and to break away from parental control. Teens are influenced by their peers in the way they dress and act, and their attitudes toward many issues that may bring them into conflict with their parents. Teens identify with their peers, and their social life revolves around fitting in.

Peer pressure is not always a negative factor in a teen's life. Good friendships and shared experiences are part of adult life, too. Good role models can come from your teen's peers, as well as encouragement, feedback and positive social experiences. The problem starts when peer pressure creates stressful situations for teens. This may mean peer encouragement toward risky behavior and behavior that your teen may not be comfortable with. Parents need to teach their teens the skills they need to make good judgments, even when the pressure is on. This may include pressure to experiment with drugs, alcohol, sex, and adopting specific attitudes in order to be accepted. The pressure to conform may be intense and overwhelming, and it may have severe consequences.

Help your teens develop the confidence to make their own decisions and choices, so they are not blind followers. Insecure teens are more likely than natural leaders and trend-setters to give into peer pressure. Dealing with difficult and maybe unpopular decisions takes courage, and parents should help their teens become comfortable with saying "no" when they feel it's necessary. Talk with your teen about potentially dangerous situations and their consequences, and discuss how to avoid them. Encourage teenagers to choose friends with the same interests and values that they have. Talk about values; set rules and limitations so that the boundaries of acceptable behavior are clear. Parents have to guide their children, so that they stay safe and make the right choices.