Just because most of them have recently become or soon will become legal adults doesn’t mean they suddenly have the know-how about what to do in situations where social influences are at play. And the stakes are higher in college, because there is not only the pressure to find friends and fit in, but to develop a new adult identity, negotiate independent living, navigate the adult world of responsibility, and balance academics and social life for the first time, much of it on their own.
The most common sources of peer pressure for college students are drinking, drugs, sex, independent living and academics. Additionally, there may be the fear of loneliness, adjusting to college life and poor stress management, which may result in poor decision-making.
As parents, we need to know that our child is going to try new things. They are going to be different than they were in high school, sometimes drastically so. Additionally they are much more dependent on their friends, who they turn to for advice on everything from how to negotiate financial aid to the new diet. They are not going to come to you on a regular basis for advice anymore, and that is OK.
For parents who are watching their child enter into adulthood, it can be terrifying to see them make mistakes and watch them get hurt. It will be difficult to stand by as they make questionable decisions. The best thing parents can do to help their college-age child deal with peer pressure is to consistently be there, be nonjudgmental, and avoid saying, “I told you so.” The best way to help them deal with peer pressure is to prepare them for it before they leave for college and be a solid, consistent presence in their lives as they mature.
“Let’s talk about peer pressure in college. It’s different than in high school because it can be about sex, money, drinking, drugs, but it can also be about jobs, majors, and your future.”
“There are pros and cons to social influence and peer pressure in college. What is your plan to deal with it?”
“What do you hope to get out of college? How do you plan on staying on that path? What is your plan to deal with the social pressures of college?”
“The social pressures in college can come from several sources. Teachers, roommates, advisers and friends can all have an influence on you. How can you deal with that and stay on track with your own values and judgment?”
“It is easy to fall in line with what others are doing, especially at parties. What are your values and goals, and how can they help keep you from making poor decisions when you are surrounded by your friends and you want to have fun?”