Talking to Teens about Peer Pressure
Today teens fall prey to peer pressure worse than when some of us did while growing up. I mean with all the social media, reality shows and television commercials around today, it is pretty hard for them not to. Hell, even some adults fall for the prey as well. That is why it is very important for parents to speak with their children on the subject early on. I wouldn’t wait until the pressures of puberty set in. I would start as early as 6 or 7 years of age. But, hey that is just me! I think sometimes as parents we underestimate just how smart our children are about certain things and it prohibits us to have those serious discussions. If you think about the way your children knows how to manipulate you at such an early age, then you can imagine what type of head games are being played in the school yards.
Anyway, with school starting soon here are a few tips on addressing peer pressure with your teens.
• Understand the Various Peer Pressures
First thing you have to do is put yourself in your teen’s shoes. Try to remember when you were their age and dealing with friendships. As we all know, this is the age when friends really matter and it can be unsettling to a teen to think they will lose their friends support. Get in touch with their times as well, because teens have a way of dismissing adults that try to understand, but are really out of touch with their reality. Most importantly, listen to them when they are talking to you. Trust me when I say, once you are not giving them your full attention that may be the last opportunity you’ll have of them sharing any information with you. So always keep that line of communication open.
• Talk to Your Teen about their Friends
Don’t be afraid to ask your teen about their friends. It may seem like you are snooping and you may be, but if done in a slick way you can find out a lot of info. You don’t want to make them feel as if they are on a witness stand, but you can ask questions as they mention their friend’s names. Questions like: What classes are their friends taking? What are their interests? If you do it in a genuine way, it will get you a better insight into your teen. Choosing the right friends has a lot to do with your teen making the right decisions, so stay on top of who your teen hangs out with. Try inviting their friends over or along on family outings, to get the real deal.
• Watch TV or Movies with Your Teen
The media is a great segway into having those peer pressure conversations. After watching movie or television shows together have a discussion about some of the characters in the movie and some of their decisions they may have made. Did someone use drugs, smoke or drink alcohol in the movie? Was sex involved? If so, ask why. Not all shows or movies have to have a big lesson behind it, but when you see a window of opportunity through a movie or show, then by all means use it.
• Don’t Judge
Remember back when you were a teen and maybe you dare not tell your parents about some of things your friends were doing, only because you didn’t want your friends to be judged. Well, same thing applies here. If their friends are making bad choices, you can let your teen know that you think it is not a good idea, but in a respectful way. Ask them what they think about their friend’s choices and let the conversation go from there. They may feel like if they tell too much they will become an outcast among their friends or made to feel like they are different. Allow your teen to express that and help them through it with by teaching them ways they can make good choices and still remain friends. Most importantly teach them to have a mind of their own.
• Listen Carefully and Actively
It is important to not be preachy. As parents we do have the tendency to do that. It is only because we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we may have made, or that we want to protect them from getting into any sticky situations. However, when we talk too much and give our opinions too often, it only makes them want to tune out. Especially, when we do it in a know-it-all type of way, instead of being understanding and respectful of what they are dealing with. Remember that what you have instilled in your children they really never forget. They may go astray, but haven’t we all. They usually get the picture and make the right decisions once they are allowed to do so.
Peer pressure is called that for a reason. It can become stressful when you are a teen trying to balance school work, grades, family and friendships. We have to let them know that they have our support and that they can come to us with any issue they may encounter. We also have to let them know that respect works both ways and when we respect each others space, time, opinions and feelings things should go smoothly. Good luck!