“You are who you hang with.” Maybe you heard this saying, or something similar to it, repeated to you regularly when you were younger. Maybe it didn’t really make a lot of sense at the time, but my guess is that it makes perfect sense now.
Throughout our lives, the people we choose to hang around with influence us, in both positive and negative ways, and this is true for our tweens and teens, too. With technological advances, like social media, this pressure may be even more prevalent in our kids’ lives than it has been with past generations. As parents, we want to help them navigate the challenges that arise and to learn how to recognize the positive and negative influences in their lives.
Rebekah Frazer, school counselor and license eligible mental health therapist, answers some questions on this important topic and offers some insight on how to help our tweens and teens both recognize, and manage, peer pressure when it arises.
What are some things teens and tweens should know about peer pressure?
Peer pressure is something all teens and tweens face at some point in their lives. With the rise of social media, I feel peer pressure is even trickling down to younger aged children. Peer pressure can be both positive and negative!
What do you recommend kids do when faced with peer pressure?
I encourage young people to consider the peers they are surrounding themselves with. Are these people making mostly positive or negative choices? Our friends’ choices make an impact on our daily lives and our outcomes. I advise my students and even my own children if there is something that makes them uncomfortable, there are ways to remove yourself from the situation. One strategy I like is just saying you do not feel well (stomach ache, headache, etc). Peers may give you a hard time for saying you are not OK with the choices they are making, but usually do not question illness. For older teens with technology access, having a safe word is another tool so the parent knows to come pick up their child, or to call with a rehearsed script that they need to go home.
If the situation is at school, they can hopefully seek a trusted adult to help diffuse the situation. A simple excuse to go to the restroom is another easy quick exit strategy.
How should parents talk to their teens about this subject?
I encourage parents to talk to their children daily about their friends and ask about both good and bad experiences during their day. I would ask their children if their friends are making positive choices, and if anything during the day made their child uncomfortable. I like to ask these questions on the way home with my daughters in the car versus just turning on the radio and zoning out. I encourage my students, clients and my own children to talk to trusted adults about their feelings so it becomes normal to them.