How to Combat Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is one of the most difficult things about being a teen. The desire and need to fit in with your peers is not just strong, it is built into your DNA. As social creatures, we humans evolved to go along with each other. It benefits us to be similar to others and to be part of the group. Those who stand out may be ridiculed or worse. When we evolved these behaviors, though, life was much simpler. Today, you have to face the pressure to use alcohol or drugs. There is no benefit to going along with this. The positive aspects of being a part of the group are far outweighed by the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use. Substance use and abuse can get you into legal trouble, can affect your health and even your normal growth patterns, and can lead to addiction. Put the brakes on peer pressure and learn to rise above.
As a teen, how do you get around this pressure and do what you know is right? It isn’t easy, that’s for sure, but there are some ways you can beat the pressure and stay on the straight and narrow.
- Choose your friends carefully. If you surround yourself with friends and peers who believe in the same things that you do, avoiding dangerous and risky behaviors will be much easier. If you are constantly hanging out with the kids who use drugs, on the other hand, you will be pressured on a daily basis to join in. This does not mean that you cannot be nice to these kids. If they are at school with you, in your classes, and a part of your life, you need to be able to interact with them. But, it will be better for you and easier to say no if you spend most of your free time with kids who do not put the pressure on you.
- Develop a good relationship with your parents. It is a cliché by now that as a teen you are not supposed to get along with your parents. Fight that idea by keeping up a good relationship with them. Tell them about your day at school, talk to them about your friends, and confide in them when you feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do. They can give you some great advice. It may be hard to imagine, but they were in your position once.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you find yourself in a situation in which people are using and they are pressuring you do to the same, speak strongly and firmly against doing so. Don’t waffle on the issue. Your peers will have more respect for you if you take a strong stand and state your feelings about substance use. You may even find that someone else there feels the same way, but was afraid to speak up. Together you can be strong in the face of pressure.
- Act like a leader. Many of your peers who do not want to give in to peer pressure, will do so anyway. It’s not easy to say no. It is definitely easy to say yes and to be a follower. When you act like a leader and refuse to take part, you help not just yourself, but others. Your peers will have more respect for you and some will follow you instead of bowing to the pressure to fit in.
- Get involved. It’s easier to give in to pressure and start using when you have nothing better to do. Get involved in healthy and worthwhile activities. Not only will you keep busy, but you will also surround yourself with people like you. Try school activities like sports, theater, and student council. Get involved in programs at your church or volunteer work.
The single most important thing you can do as a parent to subvert peer pressure is talk to your kids. When you communicate about using drugs and alcohol and other harmful behaviors, you give your teens the information and the power to stand up to the pressure. The more time you spend with your kids talking and developing a close relationship, the more likely they will be to adhere to your values and to follow your advice.