Norm Saba, MD, is a Mesa pediatrician and is chair of Pediatrics at Cardon Children's Medical Center.
Question: What are some things adolescents and teens can do to deal with peer pressure?
Answer: Parents often feel frustrated and helpless when they hear their child respond, “But everyone’s doing it!”
Peer pressure can be a tremendous source of anxiety for kids and teens, and almost every family deals with it at one time or another. Peer pressure can be a positive or negative influence on your child, but whichever form it takes, peer pressure often influences the life decisions your child makes.
It can be hard for kids to walk away from peer pressure, but it can be done. There are some things kids can do to combat negative peer pressure. Pay attention to your own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong – that inner voice is usually right. Develop inner strength and self-confidence. Self-confidence will help you stand firm, walk away and resist doing something that you may regret later. Try to be a positive influence on your friends and not just a follower. “Friends” who consistently try to convince you to do something that you know is wrong are not really your friends and should be avoided. When faced with someone who is a negative influence, respond with a simple “no” or just walk away. Try to spend more time with friends who are a positive influence.
Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. It can be powerful in shaping positive behaviors in kids, such as joining a club or trying a new sport. However, if peer pressure continues to be a difficult problem to handle, kids should try talking with someone they trust, like their mom or dad or even a teacher. Talking out a peer-related problem may make kids feel better and can better prepare them for the next time they face negative pressure from one of their friends.
Sometimes it takes adult guidance to help with peer pressure issues. Forming a peer group in your child’s school could be a major step in promoting positive change for everyone because peer groups can help stop negative pressure. Your child might consider speaking with his or her school counselor or principal about how he or she can start a peer group in school.