Parents should know that Peers play a large role in the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. Their influence begins at an early age and increases through the teenage years. It is natural, healthy and important for children to have and rely on friends as they grow and mature.
Peers can be positive and supportive. They can help each other develop new skills, or stimulate interest in books, music or extracurricular activities.
However, peers can also have a negative influence. They can encourage each other to skip classes, steal, cheat, use drugs or alcohol, share inappropriate material online, or become involve in other risky behaviors. The majority of teens with substance abuse problems began using drugs or alcohol as a result of peer pressure. This pressure can happen in person or on social media.
Kids often give in to peer pressure because they want to fit in. They want to be liked and they worry that they may be left out or made fun of if they don’t go along with the group.
Some children are more likely to be negatively influenced by peers – for example, children who have poor self-esteem, who feel they have few friends, and who have special needs. These children might feel that the only way they’ll be included and accepted in social groups is by taking on the behavior, attitudes and look of a group.
Children who have strong self-esteem are better at resisting negative peer influence. If your child is happy with who he is and the choices he makes, he’s less likely to be influenced by other people. Self-esteem helps in establishing good relationships, and positive friendships also help self-esteem.
Peer influence might result in children:
- choosing the same clothes, hairstyle or jewelry as their friends
- listening to the same music or watching the same TV shows as their friends
- changing the way they talk, or the words they use
- doing risky things or breaking rules
- working harder at school, or not working as hard
- dating or taking part in sexual activities
- Smoking or using alcohol or other drugs..
TIPS ABOUT PEER PRESSURE THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH YOUR KIDS:
- Parents advise your children to stay away from peers who pressure them to do things that seem wrong or dangerous.
- Learn how to say “no,” and practice how to avoid or get out of situations which feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
- Spend time with other kids who resist peer pressure. It helps to have at least one friend who is also willing to say “no.”
- If you have problems with peer pressure, talk to a grown up you trust, like a parent, teacher, or school counselor.
Parents might be worried that their child or children are being influence so much by their peers .but worrying alone cannot help anything. You have to do the needful and help your child identify the negative things he should not adopt from his peers. Let him understand the danger in ‘following the band wagon.’ build your child’s self-esteem. Let him understand that he is unique and need not imitate anyone. You have an influence over your child too, especially over the longer term.
If your child has a strong sense of himself and his values, it’s more likely he’ll know where to draw the line when it comes to assessing risks.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO HELP YOUR CHILD MANAGE PEER PRESSURE AND PEER INFLUENCE:
- Communication . Always keep the line of communication open. You can do this by staying connected to your child. This can help make her feel more comfortable talking to you if she’s feeling swayed to do something she’s uncomfortable with. Encourage open and honest communication. Let kids know they can come to you if they’re feeling pressure to do things that seem wrong or risky.
- Encourage your child to say no. Teach your child to be assertive and to resist getting involved in dangerous or inappropriate situations or activities your child might need to have some face-saving ways to say no if he’s feeling influenced to do something he doesn’t want to do. For example, friends might be encouraging him to try smoking. Rather than simply saying ‘No, thanks’, he could say something like, ‘No, it makes my asthma worse’, or ‘No, I don’t like the way it makes me smell’ or it can affect my brain
- Give teenagers a way out. Develop backup plans to help kids get out of uncomfortable or dangerous situations. For example, let them know you’ll always come get them, no questions asked, if they feel worried or unsafe If your child feels she’s in a risky or tricky situation, it might help if she can text or phone you for back-up without worrying you’ll be cranky. If your child is embarrassed about having to call you, you could agree on a coded message
- Encourage a wide social network. If your child has the chance to develop friendships from many sources, including sport, family activities or clubs, it will mean he’s got lots of other options and sources of support if a friendship goes wrong.
- Get to know your child’s friends. If issues or problems arise, share your concerns with their parents.
- . Get to know how your child interacts with friends and others online. Communicate openly about safe internet and social media use
- Build up your child’s sense of self-esteem. Help your child develop self-confidence. Kids who feel good about themselves are less vulnerable to peer pressure This can help her feel more confident to make her own decisions and push back on peer influence.
Parents can also help by recognizing when their child is having a problem with peer pressure. The following are tips for parents to help your child deal with peer pressure:
Encouraging your child to have friends over and giving them space in your home can help you get to know your child’s friends. This also gives you the chance to check on whether negative peer influence is an issue for your child.
We as parents should start on time to inform and educate our children consequences of indulging in negative behaviors due to the influence of their peers.
Good communication and a positive relationship with your child might also encourage your child to talk to you if he’s feeling negative influence from peers.
If you’re worried your child’s friends are a negative influence, being critical of them might push your child into seeing them behind your back. If your child thinks you don’t approve of her friends, she might even want to see more of them.
So instead of focusing on the people you don’t like, you can try talking to your child about the behavior you don’t like. Discuss the possible consequences of the behavior, rather than making judgments about your child’s friends.
Having friends and feeling connected to a group gives teenagers a sense of belonging and being valued, which helps develop confidence. Friendships also help teenagers learn important social and emotional skills, such as being sensitive to other people’s thoughts, feelings and well being.
When to be concerned about peer influence and peer pressure
If you notice changes in your child’s mood, behavior, eating or sleeping patterns, which you think are because of her friends, it might be time to have a talk with her.
Some mood and behavior changes are normal in teenagers. But if your child seems to be in a low mood for more than two weeks, or it gets in the way of things he normally enjoys, you might start to worry about your child’s mental health.
Warning signs include:
- low moods, fearfulness or feelings of hopelessness
- aggression or antisocial behavior that’s not usual for your child
- sudden changes in behavior, often for no obvious reason
- trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking early
- loss of appetite or over-eating
- reluctance to go to school
- withdrawal from activities your child used to like
- Statements about wanting to give up, or life not being worth living.
If you’re concerned, start by talking with your child.
If your child has ongoing difficulties with peer pressure, talk to his or her teacher, principal, school counselor or family doctor. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s mood, self-esteem or behavior, consider a consultation with a trained and qualified mental health professional.
GOD HAS GIVEN US THE STRENGTH AND WISDOM AS PARENTS TO DEAL WITH ISSUES CONCERNING OUR CHILDREN IN PARTICULAR AND HOME IN GENERAL. ALL WE NEED TO IS TO LOOK INWARDS AND RECOGNIZE THIS GIFTS.