Be proactive on peer pressure

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
How successfully teenagers handle peer pressure depends on how they feel about themselves and how they see their place in the scheme of things, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
As teenagers move towards independence, it’s normal for their self-esteem to be more strongly linked to how their friends see them rather than how we do. Conformity is the price they pay for acceptance; ironically, conformity that they see as a way of expressing their individuality.

Things like hairstyles, clothing and music are generally harmless ways of achieving this. We mightn’t agree with a lot of it but, if we can keep things in perspective and at least tolerate it, we’re less likely to have to deal with more major assertions.

In the more important areas of moral and cultural values, youngsters tend to follow their parents’ views even if they test them at times.

We can prepare them by making them feel valued, appreciating them, acknowledging achievement and giving them room to begin making independent decisions. We can encourage discussion and understanding of family values and be consistent ourselves in living those values. If youngsters value our opinion, they’ll tend to think twice about doing something wrong.

Here are a few tips we can give our youngsters in preparation for the times when the pressure comes on:

Prepare ahead for these situations by having sorted in your head how you’ll respond, even practising what you’ll say and the way in which you’ll say it.

Know where you stand on issues such as sex and drugs and why. This will help you stand firm. If you view giving in as letting yourself down, it’s easier to hold out.

Decide from the outset that you’ll not be involved in anything illegal or that causes harm to others. You might have to wrestle with your conscience about taking part in a protest that involves some civil disobedience. The question to ask is, “Can I live with the fallout?”

Don’t take an aggressive stand against your friends. Have some phrases ready such as: “That’s not fair on him”, “How’d you like your bike trashed?”, “Why bother with it?”. Don’t get self-righteous and lecture or abuse them. You’re just refusing on behalf of yourself. Keep it simple. Simple is harder to argue against.

Assume more of a leadership role by doing these things, which in turn will give you more confidence and help you feel more comfortable speaking out.

Just quietly and discreetly walk away if things get out of hand and get some help if there’s a dangerous situation brewing.

Be prepared for some of your friends to respond unpleasantly. The loudest might hold sway but the quieter ones, who might feel unhappy about things, will probably admire you.


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