Teens are easily influenced by their friends, and hanging out with the wrong crowd can easily put a good kid on a bad path. In order to prevent this, teens need to be able to stand up for themselves—and stick to their guns—when faced with a difficult decision.
“It’s important that parents give kids tools and skills to be able to make healthy choices,” says Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker. “Teens should have good problem-solving skills and need to know how to make healthy decisions for themselves so they can recognize an unhealthy choice when they are being peer pressured into it.”
Stephanie Newman, PhD, a clinical psychologist, agrees: “Adolescents are swayed by the opinions of their peers. Friends mean everything to them, but parents can still exert influence.”
These tips will help ensure you stay the main influence in your child’s life.
Role play. Prepare your teen for certain situations by role playing at home. “When teens have rehearsed saying no repeatedly, or telling someone they aren’t interested, they will be much better prepared to do it when the time comes,” says Morin. “Help kids develop scripts they can use to say no to drugs, alcohol or even cheating.”
Model positive behavior. How parents respond to peer pressure, even as adults, will translate to how their children respond to peer pressure, says Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Modeling is key; if a mother or father is too forgiving, enabling, allowing others to take advantage and then complaining the teen will have a tendency to replicate (repeat a similar pattern of behavior).”
Boost their self-esteem. Parents can foster a teenager’s self-esteem so they have the courage to stand up to peer pressure, says Morin. “Encourage them to find their talents and to get involved in healthy activities. When kids are passionate about sports, clubs, animals or even starting their own business, they are more likely to resist peer pressure.”
Ask for his opinion. Allow your child to feel comfortable expressing his own opinions by asking for his thoughts on politics, religion, marriage, sexuality—all the tougher topics that have some controversy or strong potential for different perspectives, says Bahar. “Talk to them about that, and encourage them to talk about their perspective in a healthy and respectful way, but still maintain a perspective on a controversial topic.”
Be supportive. When your teen does take a stand on an issue, situation, conversation—whatever it is big or small—be encouraging and supportive, says Bahar. “Give them positive acknowledgement for saying no or having a voice in a situation.”