How To Make Your Children Resistant To Peer Pressure
All parents remember the day when their child learned to make his first step.
Parents tend to hover behind their kids as they spread their arms to catch their kids every time they stumble.
As time goes by, kids turn into teenagers, and parents then become less capable in safeguarding their children.
However, experts believe that there are things parents can do to help their kids cope with teen pressure.
Get to know these guidelines and you could free yourself from worries every time your teenage child spends the whole night partying.
How Teens Behave Under Peer Pressure
What are the high-risk behaviors adopted by adolescents when they are under peer pressure?
Many, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a government agency which regularly conducts surveys to look into the high-risk behaviors of teens. A recent CDC survey reveals that peer pressure is a serious issue. There are a lot of adolescents who get involved in activities and acquire behaviors that are unhealthy and risky. These behaviors disrupt a healthy lifestyle and lead to alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, drug addiction and unsafe sexual activities. In most instances, these high-risk behaviors are the results of peer pressure.
More than 25% of teenagers aged 14 to 17 are guilty of drug abuse. One-third of young adults aged 18-21 who used marijuana had begun their habit by the age of 14.
It is estimated that two-thirds of youth aged 14 and 17 have drunk alcohol. Twenty percent of teenage boys who have drunk alcohol first tried it as early as the age of 12. The prevalence of episodic or binge drinking is quite rampant. One out of four adolescents aged 12 to 17 confessed that they had five or more consecutive drinks during the past month. About 25% of drinkers aged 16 to 21 have tried to drive under the influence of alcohol.
Almost one out of five teens who reached the age of 13 tried smoking. Almost 25% of high-school students are smokers.
One out of three teens aged14 to 15 has been involved in a sexual intercourse. Among the sexually active youths, 30% used no birth control during their recent sexual intercourse.
Aside from the well documented ones, there are other risky behaviors associated with peer pressure. Health professionals who specialize in teenage health say that there are other troubling behaviors which, although not as prevalent as the above-mentioned, are becoming more common. Teenage health professionals blame it to teenage pressure.
Take a look at the growing pressure to look sexy. According to Lauren Solotar, PHD, chief psychologist at Massachusetts-based May Institute, there is a tremendous pressure to sculpt one’s body in a specific way. Girls are not the only ones who get obsessed with beauty culture. As a matter of fact, there are a quite a number of boys of middle-school age who fancy six-pack abs, a trend that alarms Solotar.
There is also a growing number of cases of self-injury, some of which are caused by peer pressure. Alec L, Miller, chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said that high-risk behaviors, such as slashing of forearms, could be a way through which teens can get through difficult emotions. The prevalence of self-injurious behaviors was highlighted in a survey conducted at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Massachusetts during the 2004-05 school year. The study, which was based on the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, showed that 20% of secondary students had deliberately harmed themselves during the past year.
Which Teens Are More Vulnerable to Peer Pressure?
There is no single personality profile that can typify a teenager who is prone to peer pressure. According to Miller, kids who are socially isolated and have less cohesive sense of their being are the likely victims.
However, youths who seem to be resistant to peer pressure may turn out to be the most prone to it. For instance, popular kids are ironically most prone to peer pressure because they place too much importance on what their peers prefer and value. Kids with such attitude could end up drinking alcohol as early as the age of 14 or 15, according to Joseph P. Allen, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.
Why Do Adolescents Succumb to Peer Pressure?
Aside from personal traits, being in the middle age is itself one of the major reasons why youths succumb to peer pressure. This is the developmental stage when a person has a strong desire to conform.
Willful kids who experience less parental restrictions tend to become increasingly more prone to peer pressure once they enter their middle-school years. According to Michelle M. Forcier, MD, head of adolescent medicine at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, many willful kids develop risky behaviors at this stage, leaving parents panicking over the seriousness of their bad behaviors.
Some experts believe that how a society is set up can be a factor as well. Allen said that five decades ago, adolescents got more integrated with adults, whereas modern youths tend to socialize more with their peers, thus losing the sense of adult values.
How to Help Your Kids Fight Peer Pressure
Despite the vulnerability of youths to peer pressure, parents can do something to influence their decision-making processes. Here are some of the recommendations of top experts.
1. Do a role play to prepare children for peer pressure
Young adults may be taken by surprise once they find themselves under peer pressure. They may be clueless as to how to respond to peers offering them alcohol or cigarettes. Parents can help their children anticipate for these events by training them how to handle peer pressure. Solotar suggests that parents do a role play in order to familiarize their kids with the practice of resisting peer pressure.
2. Have an open communication line
By keeping the communication line open, parents can make their kids resistant to peer pressure, according to counselors, professionals and educators. Miller said that engaging kids into honest conversation about sex and drugs should start as soon as the children reach their fifth grade.
It is better to start such dialogue early at the start of adolescence years. Kids who are better in making their own decisions are those who have open talks with their parents on all issues. These kids know that their parents will always listen to their concerns no matter how disapproving they might be.
Researchers back this theory. Adolescents who have known the downsides of drug abuse from their parents are 50% less likely to fall into drug addiction as compared with kids who got no parental advice on drug use, according to a yearly, nationwide survey involving teens in grades 6-12, conducted by Partnership for a Drug-Free America and reported by its senior communications officer and founder Tom Hedrick.
3. Do not immediately resort to punitive measures
Punishing adolescents who come home intoxicated will not solve the root of the problem, says Forcier. Parents should find the real reason why their kids are developing high-risk behaviors.
4. Invite your children into your life
There may be a natural gap between the lives of parents and their children, but it should not prevent parents from inviting their children into their life.
According to Allen, youths often want to maintain their relationship with their parents. However, he warns that this may require creativity and serious efforts from parents. Parents may need to seek creative ways to relate to their kids, such as looking for mutual interests that they can share with their children in the long run.
5. Pay attention to your children’s perspectives
Forcier warns that parents should not close down the line of communication when they express their personal opinion to their children. Parents should be open to discuss anything to their teenage children, otherwise the teens may become hesitant to discuss difficult things with them.
Forcier cites a case of a parent who is uncomfortable discussing birth control with her teenage daughter. According to Forcier, youths with such a parent are likely to fall into teenage pregnancy.