Wanting to be more like your friends is a normal part of being a teenager. Peer influence or peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes it might be a concern for you or your child. If this happens, there are things you can do to help manage it. Peer pressure is when you choose to do something you would not otherwise do, because you want to feel accepted and valued by your friends. It isn’t just or always about doing something against your will.
The term ‘peer pressure’ is used a lot. But peer ‘influence’ is a better way to explain how teenager’s behaviour is formed by wanting to feel they belong to a band of friends or peers. Peer pressure or influence is not all negative it can be very positive. Your son or daughter may be influenced to become more self-confident, try new pursuits, or become more involved with schoolwork and activities. But it can also have the opposite effect and be negative too. Some teenagers might choose to try things they typically would not be interested in, such as smoking/drinking or taking part in other antisocial behaviour.
Normally it is just the simple things such as listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows, wearing the same clothes and even inventing their own language to communicate although this often sound alien as it is imported from the US. Coping with peer pressure is all about getting the balance right of your values and that of fitting in with the group.
Unfortunately it is a fact of life that peer pressure may present more negative influences on children who feel they do not have many friends or struggle with self-confidence. These adolescents may feel the only way to be included/accepted is to take on and consent to the behaviour of a particular group.
Of course as a parent this will cause concern and you become worried that your teen is being too influenced by their peers and not being guided by the values you instilled in them. Another reason for worry may be that you feel your child will not be able to say no when it matters and behaviours could lead to antisocial behaviour. If you cast your mind back to when you were the same age and experiencing peer pressure you may remember on occasion you did things that your friends did and sometimes you choose not to engage in some of the other activities your peers got involved in. The same will be for your child. You have given your child the tools to cope and a strong set of values so it is more likely they will know where to draw the line and exclude themselves from the company of their friends if their behaviour is becoming unacceptable.
Some good tips to help you and your child manage peer pressure include:
- ïKeep the lines of communication open.
- ïAdvises your child, suggest ways they can say no if they feel they are being pressured into something they are uncomfortable with.
- ïExplain there is always a way out, they can phone or text you. Assure them you will not be annoyed. If necessary invent a safe code they can send you so you will come to the rescue immediately.
- ïAssist your child in building up their self-confidence this will encourage them and give them the tools to be comfortable in making their own decisions.
- ïThe wider your child’s social network is the better, encourage them to get involved in activities they are interested in and support them.
Without a doubt good communication and a healthy positive relationship with your child will forever encourage them to communicate with you and help them with deflecting any unwanted negative influences/pressures from peers.