How to Help Your Child Strengthen Against Peer Pressure

How to Prepare Your Child for Peer Pressure

Our children are our most prized treasures, and we know that we can take on anything we need to, if it means their well-being and happiness. We invest time and effort into giving them a good home and rearing them well, go the extra mile in giving them guidance, and sometimes reverse-engineer the impossible so we can be there when they need us.

As parents, though, we are also not blind to the fact that we are not the only important people in the lives of our kids. They are their own individuals, and they should be given the freedom to make their own choices. Their friends, for instance, are theirs; there is nothing we can say or do that can effectively drive a rift between our children and the people they associate themselves with. If we force the issue, additionally, we will only succeed at driving a rift between them and us.

Coming to Terms with Peer Pressure

All that said, however, we still worry. Peer pressure is a powerful force that can sometimes shape a person’s life … for the worst. We know, because we’ve been there; we’ve seen how it works, and we have personally experienced its pull.

What we need to realize, though, is that we – as parents – have to come to terms with peer pressure ourselves, so that we can help our children manage it well. Here are a few key things we need to remember about peer pressure:

  • It has several forms. According to a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University, there are at least two types of peer pressure: implicit and explicit. Explicit refers to the dynamics that result from external sources, while implicit peer pressure is the internalization that children take away from the dynamics. Take for instance, a child who goes to school on his first day sporting clothing that is largely different from that of his or her peers. After a few days at the school, the child tells his or her parents that a change in clothes may be necessary. This could be influenced by the possibility of the odd clothes being made objects of ridicule of the other students (explicit peer pressure), or the child’s own desire to fit in and be just like everybody else (implicit pressure). So when we think about peer pressure, we should remember that it is not only present in the way we have come to associate it with.
  • It influences brain development in teens. A study by researchers at Temple University found that peer pressure influences the parts of the brain that are involved in risk and reward. In other words, adolescents are more likely to engage in risky behavior if they are with friends, compared to if they were on their own. As parents, we should take this into consideration, where providing guidance is concerned.
  • Our children will be exposed to it. There is no way to protect our children from peer pressure, short of sequestering them from society. We have to be able to accept that we need to let them go and forge their own way. The prospect seems scary, but this freedom is critical to the growth of our children.

Helping Prepare Our Children For Peer Pressure

So with all of that out of the way, let’s get down to it. How do you prepare your child to deal with peer pressure at school?

  1. Establish good communication.

    A core factor to guiding our kids through the forces that shape them at school is constant, open, and honest communication. As parents, we hold sway over all the other influences that our children are exposed to, and it is important that we let our children know that they can come to us for anything.

    You do not have to be an overbearing parent, and you do not need to keep tabs on your children all the time. Just establish a pattern where you take the time to sit down and ask your children about how their day went, or what they did. Be on the lookout for signs that could indicate a problem, whether it’s trivial or not. These conversations should be used as a gauge for how our children are feeling.

    In return, encourage your children to ask you questions. Sometimes, it takes getting insights into other perspectives to shape the way our children see the world, and decide things on their own.

  2. Instill good values.

    It is also recommended to establish a strong foundation for values, and make sure that your household is living up to them. Set down reasonable rules that communicate what is acceptable and what should be avoided, so your children are guided by an intrinsic knowledge of what to do if they find themselves in situations that are not entirely pleasant.

    What we inculcate in our children is always the blueprint that they will consult, throughout their lives. As parents, it is our duty to make sure that they know what they should, in order to be healthy and happy individuals. For instance, if our kids know that they should always feel safe and secure, they will be more likely to choose non-threatening friends and situations.

  3. Be involved.

    Whenever you can, be there. This is different from just holding the usual dinner conversation, and asking your kids questions about their day. Being involved means being a constant presence that they know they can turn to, if they need help.

    This means taking the time to go to their functions, finding out about what they like or dislike, and yes, getting to know their friends. These things do not only send out a signal that you are there for countenance and support to your child’s eyes; they also let their friends know that you are there to provide guidance and protection.

Finally, let your love show through in everything that you say and do. Love is the force that gets coded right into our systems, and it leaves a mark that nobody – not even the meanest group of kids at your child’s school – can ever undo. 

Sources:

http://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/peer-pressure.aspx

http://www.funderstanding.com/theory/child-development/peer-pressure-and-the-young-adults-brain/

https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/teenager-adolescent-development-parenting/teens-peer-pressure/#.WTHJQOvyvIU

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01035.x/full


About the Author: M Pimental

M is a happily married Filipino mother to three wonderful little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and 4 months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutrition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes, and the occasional singing cat video.

One Comment

Andressa

I loved this article. I’m writing a blog post about how peer pressure influences teenagers and what YA authors should know about it. Reading this has helped me a lot and has given me a few good ideas. I’ll try to link to it for my readers who want to learn more about the topic. Thank you for sharing! =)

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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