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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How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.
When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.

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