The Press Newspaper
Peer pressure is probably the most important influence in your teenager’s life. While parental opinions certainly are considered, if only because of the consequences of ignoring them, it’s more often the opinions and actions of peers that help many teens decide virtually everything from hairstyles to clothing choices to academic efforts.
Often, peer pressure is a good thing that can lead to involvement in sports, religious activities and academic excellence. But peer pressure can also be a negative, especially for a teen lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem, yet anxious to be accepted by others. Negative peer pressure can result in trying to be part of a group rebelling against those things (such as school) about which the teen feels less confident.
As a parent, you can help your child overcome such negative peer pressure. Step one is to help build your teen’s self-confidence and positive self-image. Your goal is to lessen criticism, while looking for positive accomplishments and chances to praise jobs well done.
You also want to be genuinely interested in your teen’s life. Go beyond the common “who, what, where” questions to find out what your teenager really is doing and feeling. Learn to respect what your teen is thinking even if you hold an opposing point of view.
And yes, getting most teens to open up can be difficult, but if you’re persistent, and show appreciation when things are shared, your teen will eventually become more open with you.
Confronting problems as they arise can also help combat negative peer pressure. Try to understand your teen’s need for certain friends, but feel free to express your concerns, and your reasons for them, about such friends.
And sometimes it’s simply necessary to set rules and boundaries. While “forbidding” certain friends seldom works, you can restrict the time spent with the most worrisome of them and insist on it being in supervised settings.
It also helps to strengthen the family relationship. Insist that homework and chores be done. Set curfews and stick to them. Handle small problems quickly, before they become big ones. And spend time with your teen, establishing regular dinner hours and finding quiet times when you can really talk with one another.
Not all peer pressure is negative, but part of your parental responsibility is helping your teen learn how to evaluate friendships. You need to help your teen identify peers who provide real friendship and positive benefits.
“The Counseling Corner” is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation’s largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more at the ACA web site, www.counseling.org.