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Helping Your Teen Navigate Peer Pressure

Helping Your Teen Navigate Peer Pressure

A few days ago, I was talking to a co-worker about peer pressure. We both stood in the hallway of our office reflecting on how we still felt it today as adults. It’s strange how the presence of other people can impact how you feel about your choices.

Through our conversation we both discussed how we still experience peer pressure with alcohol. We lamented that we thought all that would go away when we grew up, and both thought it strange that it hadn’t.

Considering this, I got to thinking about the peer pressure I still feel. Sometimes it’s hard for me to resist pressure to act, dress or speak a certain way. Can you imagine how much harder it must be for teens?

Talking to your teen about peer pressure isn’t always the most fun topic, but it’s important. This conversation could impact your teen’s decision to drink or not drink.

To help you get started in the conversation, here are a few strategies your teen can use in the face of peer pressure.

Make sure they know that you experience it too.
By telling your teen how you’ve experienced peer pressure, you are creating understanding. Knowing that you have faced it before, and still do, can help them know you relate to their situation.

If you have a specific story you remember from growing up or from more recently, sharing that can help too.

I still remember a story my mom told me growing up. After a party in high school, she got everyone in a car to do a “Chinese fire drill”. This silly game got her behind the wheel and got their drunk driver in the backseat.

Telling your teen your experiences with peer pressure can help build trust. Doing so can help your teens feel less embarrassed when they face it themselves.

Teach them to say “no”.
Having your teen practice saying “no” to you may seem like something you should avoid doing. But helping them understand that they can say no to certain requests is healthy.

Start small and have them say no in comfortable environments.

Saying no to things like doing their brother’s laundry lets them know that using the word no can be okay. These situations also help them practice the word. Using it particularly with siblings or cousins can also help them get used to saying it to peers.

Give them creative ideas.
One of the biggest reasons teens give in to peer pressure is because they don’t want to lose friends.

For this reason, it’s important to encourage them that good friends won’t want them to break the law. But it is also helpful to give them creative ways to get out of any sticky situations they may find themselves in.

Have a pre-made list of fun and safe ideas that they can do with their friends. Encourage them to suggest one of these activities when their friends want to drink.

Give them a strategy if things do go wrong.
Let your teen know that if things get uncomfortable for them that there is always a way out.

Once you set boundaries with your teen about drinking, remind them they always have a choice. Ask your teen to call you or another trusted adult to get them out of a dangerous location or situation.

Make sure they know it is better to call for help and get grounded for two weeks than it is to give into peer pressure.

Give them an easy strategy to follow if situations do get out of hand:

1. Have them slip into the bathroom or another room to call you or another trusted adult.

2. Encourage them to do what they can to avoid the situation until an adult arrives. They can stay away from the group, grab a soda to drink instead, or wait outside.

3. Leave as soon as they can with the person they contacted. Make sure they know to NEVER leave with someone who has been drinking.

When you do reunite with your teen, it’s always a good idea to talk with them about what happened. Walk them through the events and help them identify what may have gone wrong. This can help them see ways they can avoid similar situations.

Kaitlyn Inman
kaitlyn@missourisafeandsober.com
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