Younger children are influenced by their parents and rely on them for support and advice. But as they get older, adolescents often look more to their peers than their parents.
This may be because your teenager feels unable to communicate with you. It could be because they need to talk to someone who’s closer to their own age. Whatever the reason, your child’s peers can have a big influence on their behaviour.
This influence can be a good thing if their friends are mature and reliable. But sometimes teenagers feel peer pressure to do things they know are wrong. Your teenager will want others to accept them. This can lead your teenager to compromise their own beliefs and standards.
Some teenagers can resist such influence. As a parent or carer, you may know if this is realistic for your teenager.
Your teenager may find it difficult to accept that peer influence can count as bullying. Feeling pressure to do something or act in a certain way because of fear of rejection or ridicule is a form of bullying.
For advice you can share directly with your teenager, see Childline’s page on peer pressure.
Helping teenagers resist peer pressure
It’s important to highlight to your teenager that we all have the right to make decisions for ourselves.
Try exploring these questions with your teenager:
- What is peer influence?
- What can peer influence lead to?
- Do they feel the need to ‘fit in’?
- How far would they go to ‘be accepted’ by their peers?
- Do they hate to stand out as different from others?
Childnet’s video may help your conversation.
Explore what a good friend is and does
This may limit their choice of friends, but remind your teenager that this isn’t a bad thing.
Encourage your teenager to have a few reliable and trustworthy friends. Discourage a circle of ‘friends’ who are immature, reckless and irresponsible.
Help them develop their self-worth
Reinforce that they don’t need to seek the approval of others. Make it clear that your teenager can confide in you and knows you won’t judge them.
This can be hard if you can see someone isn’t a good friend for your teenager and you want to tell them this. Coach your teenager to think things through instead of telling them what to do. This will help them trust their own judgement.
Support their hobbies and interests
Help your teenager get involved in activities and hobbies in their free time.
This will help them keep busy and give them a purpose, interests and friendships.
Explore how compromising their standards might make them feel
Have a conversation with your teen. How might they feel in the long term if they compromise their standards?
Recognise that it may be difficult for them to stand up for what they believe in. But they will be a happier and stronger person if they do.
Remind them that, while it is good to have friends, they should not feel forced to talk, dress or act in a certain way to keep them.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t judge any mistakes. We were all teenagers once!
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