Everyone has peers. Peers can be your friends or other kids who are of your age and are involved in the same activities with you or are part of a community or group you belong to. You may not consider all of your peers to be friends, but they can all influence you. Peer pressure can be positive or negative. When peer pressure is positive, it pushes you to be your best. Negative peer pressure is when someone who is a friend or part of a group you belong to makes you feel that you have to do something to be accepted. It is the negative peer pressure that we usually think of when the phrase peer pressure is used. When you give in to negative peer pressure, you often feel guilty or disappointed with yourself for acting in a way that goes against your beliefs or values.
Good mental health requires the ability to make decisions for yourself based on the values you've developed through thinking independently, often with some influence from family, friends, and role models. When you behave in ways that contradict your core values, your self-esteem suffers and you may lose feelings of autonomy and control over your life. This can easily lead to other poor choices that further negatively affect your physical and mental health. So, parents can teach children how to deal with peer pressure before it becomes a problem. The following strategies will help prepare your child for handling peer pressure:Prepare for possible situations: Discuss typical age-appropriate situations that may arise. For young children it may be - excluding a classmate or teasing a less popular peer, for older kids it could be - skipping class or trying cigarettes or drugs. Discuss the possible consequences of such actions and why they may be tempting. Provide specific examples of typical situations so that your child can recognize them and be more prepared with their response. Role-playing can also be helpful.
Set family rules: If your family has clear household rules, it will be easier for your child to avoid breaking them. Provide your child with certain ground rules. If kindness is a family rule, agreeing to tease another classmate would clearly go against that. The child can then refer to their family rule when refusing to give in to peer pressure.
Discuss effective responses: If children are unprepared for responding to peer pressure, they are more likely to react too quickly and give in. Recommend ways for them to get out of a situation that they feel uneasy about with thoughtful responses. They may be able to suggest alternatives to avoid the inappropriate behavior. For example, if asked to skip school, your child may suggest instead getting together directly after school and including more friends. Sometimes it will be best for the child to avoid explaining and justifying their refusal to participate as that can lead to more pressure and arguing. When necessary, a child may need to simply repeat an assertive and firm “no” to peer requests.
Choose the right friends: Encourage your child to be selective when spending time with friends. They should look for friends with qualities they admire and who share similar values and ethics. If a particular classmate often incites bad behavior, it may be time to seek out other friends. Be careful not to personally criticize a child’s friends, however, it’s a better idea to focus on their behavior.
Stop and think first: Remind kids to take a minute before reacting to peer pressure. Taking a deep breath and thinking about the consequences prior to answering will allow them to give a more thoughtful response. When they give themselves time to contemplate the results of the requested action, such as hurting another child’s feelings, getting in trouble at school, or getting hurt, they may be less likely to give in to peer pressure. It may also be helpful to assess your child’s emotional intelligence and teach them those skills.
Talk about the dangerous behaviour: Knowing the facts about drugs, cigarettes and alcohol will help children make informed decisions when faced with the temptation to try them. Don’t wait for your kids to discover the risks on their own, present them with facts and discuss the hazards of these substances. Remember that parents’ expectations do influence children’s behaviour.