August signals back-to-school. A time for shopping for new clothes, new shoes, and tackling that long supply list. But, after all the shopping is completed and the book-bag is packed and ready to go, if you are a parent of a tween or teen, there is an important conversation you need to have with your teen before he/she hops on that school bus (or drives off to school).
Peer pressure is *"social pressure from members of your group to accept certain beliefs or act in certain ways in order to be accepted". Peer pressure can start in early childhood and increases in grade school, but tweens and teens are more susceptible to peer pressure.
Peer pressure is the one thing all teens have in common. It is a fact of life. *"It's normal for teens to want to fit in with others their age, whether through wearing the same clothing, listening to the same music, having the same interests or doing the same things. Being the same helps them feel like they belong to a group and are accepted." This is normal behavior. Everyone (even adults) want to fit in and feel accepted. But, what is your teen willing to do to be accepted?
All parents worry about their teen being pressured to smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs or have sex, but peer pressure can take on many different forms, both spoken and unspoken, including pressure to:
- Dress in a certain way
- Listen to certain music
- Cut classes
- Get involved in criminal activities
- Join a gang
- Bully others
There are certain personality traits that make a teen more prone to give in to peer pressure.
- Low self esteem
- Lack of confidence
- Poor academic performance
- Feeling isolated from peers
- Lack of strong ties to friends
METHODS USED TO PRESSURE:
- Threaten to withhold friendship
- Insults or name calling
- Makes a teen feel he/she has to participate in order to be cool
- Alienation from peer group
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?:
- Develop a close relationship with your teen, so they feel they can come talk to you when they are being pressured to do something they know is wrong.
- Encourage friendships with teens who have positive qualities.
- Know where your teen is, who your teen is with, and what your teen is doing at all times.
- Don't criticize your teen's friends. Make an effort to get to know their friends, invite them to your house, let your house be the teen "hangout" spot.
- Teach assertiveness - how to stand up to others.
- Provide discipline when appropriate, but avoid lecturing (a big turnoff for teenagers), limit privileges instead. As I have always said, the punishment should fit the crime, and always let your teen know why they are being disciplined.
- Encourage individuality and independence.
- Have clear expectations and talk about these expectations with your teen. Talk about the issues of drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. Studies show that teenagers who talk with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and other risky behavior are less likely to participate in these activities.
- Be involved in your teen's life; go to ballgames, dance recitals, etc. Teenagers who have a good relationship with their parents are less likely to submit to peer pressure.
- Pick your battles - So, you really don't like the music your teen is listening to, but if he/she is doing well in school and is not displaying defiant behavior, then what he/she listens to is really not worth an argument. *"Your teen will be more willing to listen when it really matters if you avoid nit-picking when it doesn't."
- Role play - practice different responses to various situations.
TEACH WAYS TO RESPOND:Below is a link to a quiz that helps you "role play" with your teen and will help them think through the answers they should give when faced with tough issues:
- Say "no" and leave
- Ignore the person and walk away
- Say you're not allowed
- Give reasons why you can't
- Give reasons why it is a dumb idea
- Go hangout with someone else
- Help your teen figure out where he/she stands on key issues, such as drugs, alcohol, and sex. If they are prepared beforehand, they will be better able to withstand the peer pressure.
- Tell your teen to never be afraid to speak up and let others know they have crossed the boundaries. Again, role play.
- Which kind of pressure is hardest for you to resist?
- How can you prepare yourself for these situations?
- Is it harder to resist friends or people you don't know?
- Have you ever tried to pressure a friend? Why?
- Would you risk losing a friend over something you felt strongly about?
- What consequences are you thinking of when someone tries to pressure you?
- Age 13 is the common age for first drink of alcohol.
- In the year 2000, according to the NHSDA, an estimated 46 million teens, age 12 and older, were binge drinkers.
- In the year 2000, more than 2 million teens, age 12 to 17, reported using inhalants at least once in their lifetime.
- 1 in 6 teens have been approached by someone selling drugs.
- According to NHSDA, 2.7 million teens, age 12 to 17, reported that most or all of their friends used marijuana.
- Approximately 30.2% of teens are given, offered or sold drugs in middle school and high school.
- The American Lung Association reports 3.1 million teens smoke.
- Approximately 50% of teens, age 12 to 17, feel pressured to have sex.
- The Alan Guttmache Institute reports that every year roughly 9 million new STDs occur among teens and young adults in the U.S.
- The U.S. continues to have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world.
- *"In the United States, approximately three-fourths of all deaths among persons aged 10-24 years result from only four causes: motor vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Results from the 1999 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey demonstrates that numerous high school students engage in behaviors that increase their likelihood of death from one of these four causes, including alcohol and illicit drug use.
Have you had this conversation with your teen?