Each one of us has experienced it. Peer pressure. That feeling—real or imagined—that you must do what someone else is doing or face the consequences of rejection, ridicule and social stigma.
We’ve experienced it as kids on the playground when “dared” to eat dirt; as teens when handed our first beer or joint and told “everyone does it;” and in college and beyond when made to feel that if we don’t, someone else will and get ahead before us. Peer pressure. We’ve all experienced it, but the peer pressure of years gone by is a mere shadow of what exists now. Parents must recognize the immense pressure our children face from every direction and how we can best equip them to stand strong in the face of adversity.
Pressure doesn’t just come at kids from their friends at school; it comes at them from every direction: peers, teachers, media and entertainment. It is not just the pressure to buy something, but rather to buy into a belief system, a set of values and standards that the culture has determined acceptable. Consider the debate on drug use in our country, and the influence media has on forming opinion about the use of medical marijuana and prescription drugs among young people. An overwhelming majority of those under the age of 20 believe that marijuana should be legalized, a result of an incredible media campaign in support of legalization. Likewise, the average TV viewer is bombarded with messaging that supports the use of prescription and psychotropic drugs as the norm in our culture. This has led to an ever-increasing acceptance of marijuana use as reasonable, and a growing use, misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.
The pressure to use drugs isn’t just coming from your child’s friends anymore.
But here’s the good news. While today’s peer pressure attempts to shape opinions about right and wrong, parents are not without influence despite being greatly outnumbered. A recent study of 63,000 Arizona youth identified that parents, family attachment and a strong moral belief system are significant protective factors in the decision-making of adolescents in regards to drug and alcohol use.Parents can be a powerful influence, but only when they knowledgably communicate with their kids. Here are some tips:
It doesn’t take much to stay informed on the latest and greatest teen fads. Google “teen drug fads” and you will get a wealth of information from teens themselves only too happy to describe their own experimentation. Take the time to discover the world your kids walk into every day. It may be shocking to you, but for your teen, it is their world. You can’t possibly discuss with them ways to resist what they could be pressured into if you don’t know what exists.
Many parents think that they will be giving their children ideas if they openly discuss drugs, alcohol and any other number of issues. In reality, parents should take advantage of every opportunity to discuss each of these issues with their kids. Parents should communicate early and communicate often regarding the realities and dangers of drug/alcohol use, as well as their individual expectations regarding drug/alcohol use in their home and for their children.
Where to begin? Find a current news story regarding drug/alcohol use and ask your children what they think about it. Take the opportunity to find out what they know,
what their perceptions are, and help them to understand what you expect of them.
Teach them to stand on their own:
Teaching your kids to stand on their values in the midst of peer pressure first requires that they identify their values. As parents, you need to make certain they understand what your expectations are for them. But eventually they have to wrestle with and arrive at those conclusions themselves. Let them know that it is okay to stand out, because they will never stand alone when they are resisting peer pressure. Let them know that people willing to take a stand against things that are wrong demonstrate greater character. Encourage them to do the right things, not because they are popular, but because they are right.
Knowledge, communication, education:
Each of these are necessary if parents are going to teach their kids to resist peer pressure. Be the voice heard above the noise of our culture. Be the greater influence. Be the barrier between your child and drug and alcohol use.
By// Tori Ferrari