by: Christina Botto
What is Peer Pressure?
Peer pressure affects everyone, not just your teen.
What makes peer pressure even harder for teens is that parents often don’t understand the depths to which these pressures go.
Your teenager is not just worried - he or she is terrified of not fitting in with their friends. They don’t just want to be accepted by their friends; they want to be popular!
How do parents compete with what 'cool' friends dictate?
Whether it’s harmless peer pressure such as what brand of clothes to wear or the newest gadgets to buy, or dangerous pressure to indulge in drinking, using drugs, or other illegal behavior, peer pressure is an issue that both teens and parents must confront head-on.
Even harmless peer pressure can put a lot of strain on a parent, especially if you happen to be a single parent that has to live on a limited income.
If you cannot afford to, or don’t want to just buy it for him, you could allow your teen to get a part-time job so he can earn the money for it.
Besides taking some pressure off of you it will also teach your teen the value of money.
Harmful peer pressure
Smoking and Alcohol
Taking up smoking or consuming alcohol will more than likely be the first areas where your teenager will face peer pressure. With movies and television portraying characters who smoke and drink as being tough and rebellious, teens copy this type of behavior in order to flaunt their independence.
Some girls feel pressured into having sex in order to be popular or liked by boys. Boys who are not willing to have casual sex with several girls are considered weak.
Oral sex has become very popular among teens, spurred on by the belief that oral sex doesn’t carry risk of pregnancy.
Be open with your teenager about all forms of sexual intercourse. Explain that there are other reasons not to become sexually involved too early.
Besides worrying about pregnancy, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and AIDS, remind your teenager that they must also consider pride and self-respect.
A more dangerous and potentially life-threatening pressure teens face is drugs. If their friends are doing drugs, they’re very much at risk.
Marijuana is an inexpensive drug, and most teenagers do not consider it harmful. Some believe it does not cause addiction, and teens don’t realize that it can be a gateway to other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines.
To make matters worse, I’ve been told by some teens that there are instances where drug dealers provide cocaine – free of charge - at their parties.
Combine free cocaine with a teenager’s curiosity, and you have a recipe for disaster. Teens don’t understand that one does not have to be a regular user in order to become addicted, especially when it comes to cocaine.
Parents need to be able to recognize signs of drug use in order to protect their child from becoming addicted to drugs, and to intervene if necessary. The longer a teen is using drugs, the harder it will be to stay sober after treatment.
7 Reasons that put your teen at higher risk to give into peer pressure:
- Low self-importance
- Lack of confidence
- No particular interests or hobbies
- Feeling isolated from family
- The need to “Fit In”
- Being made fun of or called a “loser”
Ways to combat harmful peer pressure:
Your teenager may need encouragement to get involved in activities where they can find friends whose outlook and character are in line with your family's values.
Together, your teen and their friends can give moral support to each other, which will make it much easier to resist negative peer pressure. By standing up for themselves and saying "no," they may give someone else the courage to do the same thing.
Discuss events, actions and their consequences often.
This will help your child to make the right choices when the situation arises.
Although your teen may act as if they do not value your opinion, parents have tremendous influence over their teen's actions.
Your teen is well aware of what you consider acceptable behavior – your value system, and the rules and limits you have set for your teen.
Telling your teenager not to give into these peer pressures will have little or no effect.
Threats and punishment by parents put additional pressure on teenagers. Now the teen is facing pressure from their peers on one side and threats from parents on the other.
In trying to escape the stress of this push-pull situation, teenagers may avoid contact with their parents or lie to them.
Instead, convey to your teen that you understand the pressures they are facing. Offer open discussions about situations and incidents - without the threat of punishment or being judged.
Emphasize that if your teen feels uneasy or unsure about doing something their friends suggest, they are probably about to do something that is wrong – maybe even illegal – and could possibly have a lasting negative effect on their life.
Fitting in and not being called a loser is a very serious matter to your teen. But your son or daughter must learn to set limits on how much influence their friends will have on their actions – and quite possibly their future.