Making decisions on your own is hard enough, but when other people get involved and try to pressure you in more than one way, it can be even harder. People who are your age, like your classmates, are called peers. When they try to influence how you act, to get you to do something, it’s called peer pressure. It’s something everyone has to deal with — even adults. Let’s talk about how to handle it.
Peers influence your life, even if you are not aware of it, just by spending time with you. You learn from them, and they learn from you. It’s only human nature to listen and learn from other people in your age group. Peers can have a positive influence on each other. Maybe another student in your science class taught you an easy how to remember the name of planets in the solar system or someone on the soccer team taught you a cool trick with the ball. You might admire a friend who is always a good sport and try to be more like him or her. Maybe you got others excited about your new favorite book, and now everyone’s reading it. These are the examples of how peers positively influence each other every day.
Sometimes peers influence each other in negative ways. For example, a few kids in school might try to get you to bunk class along with them, your soccer friend might try to convince you to be mean to another player and never pass him/her the ball or a kid in the neighborhood might want you to shoplift with him/her.
Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to approval, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids might make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that “everyone’s doing it” can influence some kids to leave their better judgment, or their common sense, behind.
Teenagers also face several areas of peer pressure during their high school years.
What makes it even harder for your teenager is that most parents do not understand the extent of these pressures. Cigarettes and alcohol are likely to be among the first areas in which your teenager might face the pressure. With movies and television flashing images of underage smoking and drinking, most teenagers are shown only the enjoyable and pleasurable sides of these habits.
High school years are very competitive, and where your teenager stands on the popularity continuum is very important. Failure to achieve it is termed as a “looser” which is one of the biggest fears of a teenager.
To avoid this label they sometimes portray the image of being tough, rebellious and uncontrollable by their parents. For today’s teenagers, smoking and drinking are the easiest ways to declare their “independence”.
A more dangerous and potentially life-threatening pressure they face is drugs. The most commonly available and used is Marijuana. It is a cheap and readily-available drug in today’s society, and most teenagers do not consider it harmful. To them, it does not cause serious addiction like heroin or methamphetamine does. The marijuana use depicted in movies and television does not show teenagers that it is illegal and that being caught under the influence or its possession can ruin their future. In addition, smoking marijuana may lead to more serious drugs such as heroin, crack or methamphetamines.
It is tough to be the only one who says “No” to peer pressure, but you can do it. Paying attention to your own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help you do the right thing. Inner strength and self-confidence can help you to stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something that you don’t want to do.
It helps to have at least one other peer, or friend, who is willing to say “no,” too. This takes a lot of the power out of peer pressure and makes it much easier to resist. It’s great to have friends with values similar to yours who will back you up when you don’t want to do something.
You’ve probably had a parent or teacher who advises you to “Choose your friends wisely.” Peer pressure is a reason they say so. If you choose friends who don’t use drugs, bunk classes, smoke cigarettes or lie to their parents then you probably won’t do these things either. Try helping a friend who’s having trouble resisting peer pressure. It can be powerful for one to join another by simply saying, “I’m with you — let’s go.”
You can handle peer pressure even when you’re alone as there are things you can do. You can stay away from peers who pressure you to do stuff which you know is wrong. You can tell them “No” and walk away. Better yet, find other friends and classmates to hang around with.
If you continue to face peer pressure and you find it difficult to handle, talk to someone you trust. Don’t feel guilty if you’ve made a mistake or two. Talking to a parent, teacher or school counselor can help you feel much better and prepare you for the next time you face such a situation.
Lecturing or instructing teenagers not to give into peer pressure will have little or no effect. Teenagers equates their popularity among their friends with self worth. The more insecure a teenager is, the more likely it is to give in into these pressures.
Threats and punishment put additional pressure on teenagers. They face the pressure from peers on one side and parents on the other. Trying to avoid or ease these pressures, teenagers may avoid contact and lie to their parents.
Instead, you should recognize that fitting in and not being called a looser is very serious and important to any teenager. Convey to your teen that you understand the pressures he/she is facing. Offer open discussions about situations and incidents – without the threat of punishment or judgment. This will encourage them to talk and develop a trusting bond. By openly discussing the pressures they are facing, you will have the opportunity to voice your concerns and opinions. Your teenager will be far more receptive to suggestions if matters are discussed peacefully.