Mom… I want to have noodles packed in my lunch because all my friends bring that!
Dad… I want an iPhone because all my friends at the institute have one.
Don’t worry! This behavior is something of a common occurrence among childrens. But what about when it gets out of hand.
You must have guessed it by now what we are going to talk about today - Peer Pressure!
As a parent, you know that the peer pressure your child will face as they grow older will only get more challenging. In fact, studies show that it’s during adolescence when kids feel more pressure to fit in and follow social norms.
Peer pressure is normal. Kids need to learn how to handle peer pressure before they go off to college or start working as an adult. It’s up to us as parents to help our children develop the right skills and values so they can stay true to themselves while also fitting in with their peers. With positive support from adults and trusted friends, your child will be able to make better decisions about what is best for them instead of simply going along with what their friends are doing because it’s easier or feels safer.
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It’s not just as kids start to go to middle school or high school that they’ll need to face peer pressure. It starts much earlier than that. If your child isn’t in school yet, now is the time to start talking about the kinds of pressure your child will face as they grow up.
What does your child do when their friends ask them to do something they aren’t sure is safe or is the right thing to do?
How does your child stand up to pressure from other kids?
As your child gets older, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Think about the movies or TV shows your child watches. What kinds of peer pressure do they see in those? Talk about it. As your child gets older, they’ll also have more opportunities to face peer pressure in person. Preparing your child and helping them to have the right skills to say “no” will help them make better decisions and stay safe.
Kids learn a lot by example. One way parents can help their children build a strong sense of self and resist peer pressure is by modeling positive behaviour. This can include the way you interact with your child as well as the example you set when you are out in the world.
When you talk to your child, use “I” statements like “I want to go to the park today” instead of “You need to go to the park today.” This shows your child that you are making choices based on your needs, not theirs. When you go out and about, don’t talk badly about other people and avoid gossip. Choose to spend your time with people who lift you up, not bring you down.
As your child grows up, they will form their own social circle. This group of friends will have a major influence on your child, especially when they hit their teen years. You can help your child build a social circle that encourages your child to do what they think is best even if it doesn’t fit in with their peers. This might include their sports or extracurricular activities, or even the groups of friends they see in their free time.
If your child is in sports, for example, they might want to hang out with their teammates during their free time or on the weekends. Kids who are in extracurricular activities often have strong relationships with the other people they spend time with because they are all working toward a common goal together.
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When your child is faced with an experience or situation that involves peer pressure, help them find the words to say “no.” If your child is invited to a party where there might be drinking or taking drugs, for example, talk to them about the kinds of things that are red flags for possible peer pressure. Then, when your child is in the situation, have them repeat their “safe” words to themselves so they can make the right decision for themselves. Say things like “I’m not comfortable doing that” or “That isn’t for me.” Let your child know that it’s not wrong to want to do what’s right for them and that it’s OK to speak up and say no when they need to.
If your child has been invited to do something they know is wrong or that they know they don’t want to do, let them know they can say “no” as many times as they need to. If they still feel like they want to go along with what their peers are doing, offer them an “out.” Let your child know that any time they want to leave, they can.
If your child feels trapped or peer pressured, let them know that they can leave. If they feel like they have to stay, it can be hard to know when to leave and when to stay. Offer your child a way out, like “If you want to leave, you can go home whenever you want.”
Peer pressure is normal, but it doesn’t have to be harmful. The key is for your child to be empowered enough to say “no” to peer pressure when they need to. When kids are given the skills and self-confidence to resist unhealthy peer pressure, they also open themselves up to new kinds of positive peer pressure. You may notice your child forming new friendships with kids who have similar interests, have a similar sense of humour, or have the same values as they do. Kids who have the skills to stand up to peer pressure and have their own group of friends feel more confident and more like themselves. That’s what we want for our kids.
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