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Peer pressure is common – it’s how you deal with it that matters
Everybody experiences the need to fit in and belong. This is especially important for children and young people.
Growing up means being exposed to pressures from friends and people inside and outside the family. Peer pressure can come from friendship groups, classmates, teammates or even older siblings.
For kids and teens, it’s usually very important to their sense of belonging and acceptance that they adopt some of the beliefs and behaviours of their friendship group. This is generally what people mean when they talk about ‘peer pressure’.
Peer pressure can be subtle and kids may express it through dressing, talking or behaving in a way that their friends think is acceptable. At other times, peer pressure is more direct and can involve kids feeling pressured into doing things they don’t want to do.
Things you might worry about
There are times when you might notice your kids are being influenced by friends or peers in a negative way. There are some common worries and concerns that parents have when it comes to peer pressure.
They may worry their kids will:
Adopt a negative attitude
Lie, cheat or be deceitful
Change the way they dress or act
Have sex or be exposed to pornography
Experiment with drugs, cigarettes or alcohol
Steal or take part in other illegal activities
Do risky things or be exposed to risky situations
Stop being friends with peers you liked and approved of
There are moments when you might wonder which direction to take or how to handle the situation. Just remember there is support out there. Parentline is available in every state and territory.
Peer pressure can be hard to stand up to
Some kids can change and adopt news ways of behaving fairly quickly, while other kids might not change at all or only a little.
Having conversations about peer pressure
There may be some uncomfortable conversations to be had with your kids. If you can find a good time to sit down in private with your kids, here are some topics you may find helpful to talk about with them:
Be open about your own experiences with peer pressure. Share how you handled it, what you did well, plus any mistakes you made and what you learnt from it.
Teach them how to say no. Find the ability to say no to external pressures yourself and model the behaviour for them. Talk to your kids about how you did that.
Talk to them about how the decisions they make now might impact them in the future. A gentle word or two about the future risks can be enough. If you try to be too demanding or controlling you may push them away and close down the communication.
Discuss the risks involved in underage drinking, smoking cigarettes, unplanned or unprotected sex and using drugs.
You may not have all the answers and that’s ok
It can take more than one conversation with your child to get things on track
It can be tough guiding your child in positive ways and helping them cope with peer pressure. Remember, you and your family are not alone!
For parenting support you can try talking to a counsellor at Parentline in your state or territory.
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