Is your teen able to handle peer pressure?
As parents we may often ignore what is probably the most important influence in our teenager’s life — peer pressure. While parental opinions may be given some consideration, if only because of the consequences of ignoring them, it’s more often the comments and actions of peers that help many teens decide virtually everything from hairstyles to clothing choices to academic efforts.
Peer pressure can be a good thing, encouraging participation in sports, religious activities and working for good grades.
But peer pressure can also be a negative, especially for a teen lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem yet anxious to be accepted by others. Negative peer pressure can result in trying to be part of a group rebelling against those things (such as school) about which the teen feels less confident.
Parents, however, can help a child overcome such negative peer pressure. The first step is to help build the teen’s self-confidence and positive self-image. Your goal is to criticize less while looking for positive accomplishments and chances to praise jobs well done.
It’s also important to be genuinely interested in your teen’s life. Go beyond the common “who, what, where” questions to find out what your teenager really is experiencing and feeling. Learn to respect what your teen is thinking even if you strongly disagree.
And yes, getting most teens to open up can be difficult but if you’re persistent, and show appreciation when things are shared, your teen will eventually become more comfortable talking.
Confronting problems as they arise can also help combat negative peer pressure. Try to understand your teen’s need for certain friends but feel free to express your concerns, and your reasons for them, about these friends.
And sometimes it’s simply necessary to set rules and boundaries. While “forbidding” certain friends seldom works, you can restrict the time spent with the most worrisome of them and insist on it being in supervised settings.
It also helps to strengthen the family relationship. Insist that homework and chores be done. Set curfews and stick to them. Handle small problems quickly, before they become big ones. And spend time with your teen, establishing regular dinner hours and finding quiet times when you can really talk with one another.
Peer pressure isn’t always negative but an important parental responsibility is helping your teen learn how to evaluate friendships and identify peers who provide real friendship and positive benefits.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.