Peer pressure, for better or for worse, is a part of life, especially for teens. Some peer pressure may be positive – encouraging your teen to join a new club athletic team, for example – but the overwhelming majority is negative, prompting your child to undertake dangerous and illegal activities for the sake of fun or friendship.
As a parent, watching your child change in response to the people around him can be very overwhelming, especially after years of being one of the sole influences in your child’s life. You may feel anxious, worried, or doubtful. You may even find yourself frightened, especially when suspected drug use enters the picture. Studies have found that most teens value impressing their friends over potential risks, making it likely that your teen will give in sooner or later.
Even the best behaved teens in the world will be asked to try drugs at some point, whether by old friends or new acquaintances. Some will stand firm and say no, while others will say yes. Over 40% of teens admit to having tried drugs at least once in the last year, and peer pressure is often to blame.
There’s no saving your child from the people around him – after all, you can’t watch his every move at all times – but you can talk to him about saying no to drugs.
Talking to Your Child
Talking to your child, even as he grows older and begins to exhibit a greater interest in independence, can be one of the best way to maintain a strong relationship. These tips can help you plan and execute a productive discussion, guiding your child through the dangers of peer pressure and drug use.
Plan Out Talking Points
Before diving into a conversation, you need to have some idea of what you’d like to say. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes for a moment, and think about how you felt at his age. Maybe you were a little rebellious yourself, or maybe you stood strong against peer pressure in order to improve your chances of getting into a good college or finding a good job. Regardless of the differences between you and your teen, you can use your own experiences as a framework for what you have to say.
Plan out some talking points, including tactics for saying no. Remind him that high school popularity has little bearing on the real world, and that true friends will always respect boundaries. Consider also speaking about the value in college and career, highlighting the connection between his teen years and future opportunities.
Find an Appropriate Time
Once you’ve decided what to discuss, it’s time to choose a place to do so. Peer pressure is a serious topic, so you need to find a way to give it the attention it deserves.
Before sitting down with your teen, select a place that allows you to talk openly and honestly. Don’t bring peer pressure up in the morning during breakfast while your teen is trying to hurry out the door to school; instead, find a quiet time, like a walk around the block or chat on the couch in the evening after other family members have gone to bed. Minimize distractions by turning the TV off and putting cell phones aside, and try to stay out of public places to give your teen some privacy.
Share; Don’t Judge
Once you’re with your teen and ready to talk, introduce the subject of peer pressure and start by going over the talking points you decided upon. You don’t have to stick to your outline word for word, but try to make sure you mention the main points of your argument. Tell stories about your own childhood, like a time you gave in to peer pressure and regretted it or a time you stood up to a friend and did the right thing, reminding your teen that he or she is not alone.
Encourage your teen to share stories and ideas, too. Keep your tone calm and non-judgmental, and make sure he knows that you love them and care about them, no matter what his or her friends may have pressured him into trying. Ask if they have faced peer pressure, and how they handled it.
If you and your teen have a positive relationship, they may be willing to admit drug or alcohol use. Do your best to remain neutral, and discuss ways to resist peer pressure and how to respond in the future. Your first instinct may be to yell or immediately punish, but these actions can hurt more than help; after all, open lines of communication and trust from your teen can be very important in helping him to make educated, mature decisions.
Check Back In
One in-depth talk about the power of peer pressure is a great start, but your parenting job isn’t done when your chat ends. Instead, find a time to check back in in the future to see if your teen has any struggles they’d like to share or to simply reinforce your point. Make these conversations frequent, perhaps once every few months, to reassure your teen that you are here to talk, listen, and provide guidance. As you strengthen the bonds of communication, your teen may be more likely to open up to you, sharing more of his experiences and asking for your advice.
Drug use in your teen is never easy to face. With the right approach to peer pressure, however, you can encourage your teen to do what’s right rather than what’s easy. If you need help managing teen drug use, call Teen Treatment Center at (844)319-5239 to explore your options.