Helping Our Teens Battle Peer Pressure
When your teen first starts school, peer pressure becomes a natural part of his or her life. He is subjected to it on a daily basis and no matter how hard we try, we can’t shield them from it happening. The other kids are inevitably going to try to sway your kid into “going with the flow” and she will need to have tools to combat those temptations. The school is hard enough without these types of pressures, but they do serve a purpose. If kids learn to deal with peer pressure successfully in school, they will be much better prepared for the dog eat dog world that lies before them.
That said, here are some tips that you can use to help them along in that process:
Talk with your child early and often
Everyone says they talk to their kids, but few actually walk the walk. Talking to them does not mean saying “how was your day” and then walking away. Talking with your kids should be asking questions, then following up. Talking with your kids means being there to listen when the boy breaks her heart. Talking with your kids means being engaged with your child. Never stop at the surface of a conversation because most teens are going to want to stop right there initially. Teens inevitably have a distrust of us. You have to break that glass ceiling and show them that you are there for them and that you do understand.
Share situations you faced as a teen
Just like them, we went through peer pressures when we were teens. This is not a modern epidemic. Share situations that you went through and let them know the mistakes you made. This is not a sign of weakness and you will not lose authority with your kids by showing them you are imperfect. This humanizes you and shows your kids that you do, indeed, understand. Be careful, however, not to drag on and on for hours. This will only make you the parent that never shuts up to listen. Offer up some examples and allow them to ask questions. You two will likely have a good laugh and make them feel more confident in the process. Always allow them to come to you.
Build a team of peer pressure warriors
This is kind of like a group of teenagers that will back one another up. You can help them to get started by making the suggestion. Get with several other parents of your teen’s friends (get their permission at least) and have a meeting with them all. Explain to them that you want to have a team of friends to help one another out with bullying, peer pressure, and other school pressures. Organize a group of teens that will back one another up. Have them sign a contract, give them a t-shirt to spread the word and throw parties for them where they can discuss the latest problems and troubles. Give them a name too! You will be surprised at how they will rally behind such an idea.
Eat dinner at the table every single night
Yes, it is old-fashioned. Yes, it will get huge resistance from your teenager. Still, it will become a habit and you will stay in touch with the pulse of what is going on in your kid’s life. No amount of daily tasks should get in the way of that. If it does, your priorities likely need to be revised. Spend time sitting at the table before and after dinner just talking about their day. What did they enjoy? Were there any problems?
The vast majority of the time, teens don’t talk to their parents because of a lack of opportunity. Life can get so fast that it seems like there simply is no time. Give them that time on a daily basis.
Try direct questions
If you really want to know what is happening in your teen’s life and what they are being pressured to do, perhaps asking them would be a good start. More importantly, asking them direct questions. When was the last time you asked your teen if drugs were being offered to them? What about sex? These are all areas that we know they are being pressured in or soon will be, so why not ask them directly? Lots of kids will be forthright about it if they feel the subject is already on the table. Don’t force answers from them. Simply inquire gently and let nature take its course.
Spend quality time alone with them
Some teens open up easier with Dad. Some are more inclined to talk with Mom. Whatever the case may be, it is important that they have some good chances to do so with either on a regular basis. Take them on a walk, go to dinner or simply hang out on the back porch alone now and then. Spend time talking and most of all…listening. This will pay off with your teen over time.
Offer them better options
Teens are always quick to take the better option. It is a natural part of being a teen. If they are in a sticky situation and need to call home for help, they are not going to do so if they know that military mom is coming to bash heads and take names. They are looking for an escape sometimes. A quiet escape would allow them to leave the situation and not lose face with their friends. Give them the “no questions asked” escape route for situations where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You will pick them up and not ask any questions. They will ultimately tell you anyway if they use this option, and more importantly, they will be safe from the bad decision.
Talk to them about being a leader
Great leaders first know how to follow, but that does not mean they follow morons. Great leaders also know when following is a bad choice. This is something that your kids should learn early in life. Explain to them that creating a positive option for their friends is a viable way to lead. There will be plenty of other teens looking to stay clean and maximize their knowledge. Reach out to them and be friends with those that are friendless. If they become the ones to reach out, they will become the people that other teens choose to follow in a positive way. Ultimately those are the people that lead our country and our world.
Cultivate those leaders from an early age. It is easy to lead when it is easy. What about when it is tough? Teach them to lead when it is tough and you will have something special.
Teens are not as fragile as we make them out to be. They are capable of making tough decisions and standing their ground just like we are. The key is to teach them the things they need to know to confident. If we do this, our teens and our world will change for the positive.
Let’s give them that chance in life.