By Tammy Walsh for Dr. Barbara Greenberg
Have you talked with your teen about peer pressure lately? If not, this summer may be the perfect time have that conversation. Although it can be an intimidating subject to bring up with your teen, peer pressure is an important issue that must be addressed. With teens out of school, they are more likely to spend a lot of free time with friends. While this extra time can help teens unwind and relax after a busy school year, it may also result in situations they aren’t prepared for and weren’t expecting. Unfortunately, teens don’t always know how to respond when pressured to participate in risky activities. But as a parent, know that you are not helpless!
Here are some things you can do this summer to make sure your teen is able to confront situations where he or she may feel pressured to participate in a potentially dangerous activity:
- Start the conversation: First and foremost, it can be extremely beneficial to have this conversation with your teen one evening after dinner, in the car or on an evening walk. Wherever you choose to have the peer pressure discussion with your teen, make sure you are talking with them, not lecturing to them. If teens feel like they are being lectured to, they may get defensive and not fully listen to you. That said, even if your teen is barely responding or gets distracted, don’t give up. If you are having trouble initiating a discussion, take a look at these conversation starters.
- Talk through scenarios: Write scenarios on flash cards and have your teen go through them with you one-by-one. This way, your teen can personally articulate how he or she would react and you can provide advice or alternatives that are more specific to each situation. This would be a great time to also provide tips for an exit strategy. Saying things like “No, I’m good” may not be enough to deter peer pressure, so coming up with a few options is important. For example, saying something like “Why do you care if I don’t do it?” can flip it on the perpetrator. And always remind your teen that simply walking away IS an option.
- Keep the conversation going: Continue to talk with your teen about peer pressure throughout the summer. You don’t have to directly talk about peer pressure each day, but bring it up every now and then. Ask how your teen’s day was, who he or she hung out with and what he or she did to get a sense of their daily activities without overtly prying. If you see an instance of peer pressure on the news or in a movie, ask your teen for his or her thoughts. All of these things can help keep the conversation open and ongoing.
If you have additional advice for how to speak with teens about peer pressure, please feel free to share it in the comments below!
Tammy is a mother of two, a high school math teacher and a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org. Tammy has a passion for addressing the issue of substance abuse openly and honestly with parents and teens. Through her work with The Five Moms, she hopes to reach more parents on a national level, educating and empowering them with the tools to make positive change in their communities. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.