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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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