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5 Ways to help your teen resist negative peer pressure

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Raising an independent thinker

The teen years are no picnic -- for your child or for you as a parent. There are hormones, school pressure and mood swings -- and perhaps the largest looming of them all: Peer pressure. Will your angelic daughter succumb to the influence of her peers and start making less than stellar choices? Will your sweet mama’s boy turn into a being you don’t recognize, either inside or out, because of the influence of his friends? While there is no guarantee it won’t happen that way, you can take some steps to try to head it off.

Raising an independent thinker

You've got to at least try! You made it through the terrible two's intact -- don't give up on parenting now! So how can you help your child resist negative peer pressure? It's more than just luck and a prayer! Consider these five points in your efforts to keep negative peer pressure at bay.

1Keep communication lines open

Find ways to keep lines of communication with your child open, and preferably two-way. Create opportunities to talk and to listen. Make appointments if you have to! Talk about your own experiences with peer pressure as a young person and acknowledge that navigating social dynamics can be a challenge.

2Be a role model

Lead by example in your own peer relationships. Make sure you are modeling healthy relationships with friends for your child, and talk with your child about how you do that. If your child sees you giving in to peer pressure with your peer group, why should he or she resist in hers?

3Promote a strong personal identity

Find ways to help your child develop a strong personal identity and self-esteem. Whether it's an activity or sport or lessons or other interest, recognize the role that inner satisfaction and fulfillment plays in a person's life, whether young or old. Reinforce the positive. A child with a strong personal identity, while not immune to the influence of peers, has less need to follow along when less than ideal choices are being made.

4Role play challenging situations

When your child is or may be facing a challenging situation with peers, use role playing to help your child find the language and confidence to respond in an appropriate manner. Whether it's bullying behavior as a young child or substance experimentation as a teen, considering the situations in which your child might find him or herself and helping identify how to get out of the situation can help when such a real situation is presented.

5Remember the power of laughter

How many less than ideal choices include the phrase, "Aw, c'mon, it'll be fun!" Make sure your child has the opportunity to have fun in a healthy and positive environment with family and friends, so those persuasive words from a peer will be less enticing. Remember there is power in laughter and happiness. Help your child associate happiness and fun with healthy and positive choices and environments.

All kids will experience peer pressure at some point. Giving them tools to handle it is up to us as parents. While not foolproof, the more tools we give them, the better.

More on peer pressure

Helping teens combat peer pressure
10 Ways to help kids really say no and buck peer pressure
Parents are the perfect antidote to peer pressure

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