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Talking to Teens About Peer Pressure


Peer pressure is a bit inevitable, but there are things we can do to close the door on being pressured more than we do.

Making sure your kids know how to say "no" is an important life skill. One that they will need more and more as they get older. Adults play an important role in helping young people develop and practice this skill. These talking tips are sure to help! 

Help kids clarify their values by sharing your own and why you believe what you do. 

If you have values around what is right/wrong, healthy/unhealthy, or safe/unsafe behaviors be sure to share these with your children. It is important to also include why you feel that way. You won't always know if your values and beliefs were heard in the moment but often times they are reflected back later when it counts. 

Be real. Don't exaggerate to instill fear. The truth is often scary enough.

Often times adults exaggerate consequences. If a child knows of an example that contradicts what you are saying, it may be harder for children to hear you. They are very concrete and literal thinkers until their brains fully develop. They are also very skilled at identifying exceptions to rules. For these reasons honesty is the best policy. Be real about risks and consequences and help children understand both while recognizing that what "could" happen doesn't always happen. 

Role-play and practice "what if" scenarios

Movies, TV shows, current events or news can be used as great tools to help bring up "what if" scenarios. What if there was an active shooter at school what should you do? What if there was something illegal going on at a party what should you do? What if a friend told you a secret that you shouldn't keep because someone is hurting them what would you do? 

You can share stories or scenarios you found yourself in and what you did or wish you did. The more we consider situations we may find ourselves in and what to do the easier it is to-do that thing when it happens. 

Have a code word as a family for uncomfortable situations

Many families find it helpful to have a code word you say or text (could be an emoji too) to communicate secretly. For example, maybe your son/daughter calls you Mother or Daddy instead of Mom/Dad when they want you to say "no" to something they are asking.  This allows young people to save face in front of friends. Perhaps they are invited to a sleepover but don't really want to go or they are at a play date and kids are doing something that makes them uncomfortable and want to be picked up to go home.

You can also set-up a "no questions asked rule" to ensure their safety is your #1 priority as some kids won't take advantage of this code word for fear of getting themselves or others in trouble. 

Talk about 'white lies' to use if needed.

"I'm not feeling well." "I have an emergency". "I'm on my period". There is a time and a place for white lies as long as they don't hurt anybody. It is not a habit you want to get into but they can be helpful if your child is unsure how to handle a certain situation.  This can be described as a "plan B" if "plan A" didn't work. Be sure to give your child some ideas to put in their tool box if needed. 

Model how to say "no" 

Modeling is very important. In fact, your kids are watching you and how you handle things when you don't want to do them. Do you over commit yourself? Say "maybe" to be nice when you really want to say no? If you want your kids to be able to say "no" you'll have to respect their no's as well. 

Avoid Wishy Washy Words!

When you don't want to do something or are feeling pressured you should avoid "wishy washy" words.  These are words we use that don't have much power to them and convey uncertainty leaving the door wide open to being pressured. For example, lets say I invite a friend to a movie and she replies with, "I probably shouldn't. I have a big day tomorrow and I don't think I'll be able to get up tomorrow." Likely I will respond with, "Come on! We won't be out late and its only a 2 hour movie." Had she used no words instead I may not have used pressure to get her to do what I wanted. It would have been better to say, "Thanks for the invite Jen, I can't tonight. I have a big day tomorrow. Please think of me again next time." This time she used the no word "can't" which is a stronger, more certain statement. I can't guarantee someone won't still pressure you even when you use no words, but I can tell you that it will happen a lot less often.

Use "NO" Words

No words are can't, couldn't, won't, wouldn't, don't, stop, never, and not. It is important to say no like you mean it. Use tone and body language to convey no along with saying it. 

Keep it simple 

Here is a simple formula I use when teaching..

  1. Say "no" twice in case someone didn't hear you the first time.
  2. If that doesn't work, try changing the subject or do something else.
  3. Finally, if that doesn't work,  it's time to leave the situation. 

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have other tips you've used and worked well please share below. 




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