Having open, honest conversations with your teens can not only help them balance the need to be cool and popular with the desire to make the right choices, but it also might save their lives. Peer pressure can be enormous on your teen, but how do you tell if your teen is struggling with the pressure?
- Your teen suddenly tries to avoid going to school
- You hear that your teen is being picked on
- Your teen’s social life slows down or stops
- Your teen acts angry, frustrated, or depressed
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducted a survey analyzing the risk behaviors among teens. According to the survey, peer pressure is directly responsible for an increase in risky behavior — things like cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and having sex among teens.
The CDC results were shocking. By the time teenagers are 14 years old,
- 20% of them have tried a cigarette
- 66% have tried alcohol
- 25% reported having been involved in a binge drinking episode
- 25% of teen girls tried illegal drugs as a direct result of peer pressure
- More that one-third of teens have had sexual intercourse
What Can You Do?
Peer pressure does not work as well on kids with healthy self-esteem and actively involved parents. Teens with higher self esteem are less likely to get involved with drugs. A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development demonstrated that actively involved parents who knew their children’s friends and had regular conversations with their children improved their ability to deal with teen peer pressure. Another study conducted by National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University demonstrated that sitting down together as a family during the evening meal directly affected teen’s grades and self-esteem. Self-esteem is a critical component in dealing with peer pressure.
According to the study, teens that only eat dinner at home with their families twice a week or less were more likely to try marijuana, smoke a cigarette, or try alcohol compared with teens who eat at home more regularly. Even if your teen is involved in sports and doesn’t make it home in time for a regular meal, just sitting with him or her while she eats and listening to your teen talk about his or her day can make a difference. The more you are there, the more that you show you are interested in your teen’s life, the more likely they will be to make good choices when peer pressure is at its worst.
If you are concerned that peer pressure is having a negative impact on your teens, don’t wait! Sit and talk with your teens now. Let them know that you are interested in what is happening in their lives. Ask about their friends. Ask them how school is going. Remind them that you are there if they have problems they need to work through. Let them know how proud you are of them and how much you love them.
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