It’s a fresh start to the beginning of a new school year. Clothes have been ironed, lunch boxes lovingly made and school bags packed. As kids enter the school gates, parents can’t help but wonder…
What does their child’s day consist of? Are they perfectly happy, hanging out with friends, or might there be suspect for peer pressure?
“The pressure to conform to peer’s behaviors can be powerful and hard to resist,” says Daphne Lampley of the LiveFree! Coalition. “It’s the influence of peer groups – whether positive or negative – that’s of critical importance in teen’s lives.”
Peer pressure is the emphasis to conform and do things outside of one’s normal behavior: Pressure to wear the right clothes; Pressure to act a certain way; Pressure to do drugs or drink, which are the behaviors parents don’t want their children to do.
Many parents worry about peer pressure, but this type of focus is not about a group forcing someone to do something against their will; it’s more about a person choosing to do something because they want acceptance, to belong and feel valued.
According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Virginia published in the journal, Child Development, popularity at the age of 13 doesn’t necessarily translate to success at age 23. Those ‘cool’ kids were more likely to have bigger troubles later in life: As young adults, they were using 40 percent more drugs and alcohol than the ‘not so cool’ kids and were 22 percent more likely to be running into troubles with the law.*
“Teaching your high school, or middle school student not to give in and how to rise above the pressure are important lessons parents need to keep in mind as their children head back to school,” Lampley says. “Having good communication at home and setting expectations for the teen are just some of the positive powers of parents’ influence on their children’s decision making.”
Parents can support positive peer relationships, or healthy friendships, by showing their teenagers love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves. Specifically, parents can show support by:
Having good communication at home. Encouraging open and honest communication lets kids know they can come to parents if they’re feeling pressure to do things that seem wrong or risky.
Giving the kid an identity. Talking about who they are, their family, and their values help build children up so that they have a strong identity. That identity will become the fuel for their confidence, their way to approach life.
Making expectations known. Telling teenagers what guiding principles are and what consequences they can expect any time they don’t respect rules, helps teenagers to remain in contact with their inherent values.
Letting children feel the impact of a crossed boundary. Following through with consequences reinforces family values, teaches cause-and-effect, and provides boundaries for kids to learn and grow.
Building good self-esteem. Inner strength and self-confidence can help youth stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something when they know better.
Encouraging positive peer pressure. Developing healthy friendships and peer relationships that positively influence children can mobilize a teenager’s energy, motivate for success, and encourage a teenager to participate in healthy behavior.
“Having family meals at home: It’s as simple as that,” Lampley says. “Research shows, it reinforces family identity, opens communication, and builds trust with your child so that they can talk to you about things going on in school, things that make them feel uncomfortable, and things that make them have emotions that they’re not sure about.”
For more tips and helpful prevention resources, parents can visit the LiveFree! Coalition of Pinellas County online: An alliance that promotes awareness about the harmful effects of underage drinking, binge drinking, marijuana use, synthetic use and other substance abuse among youth, young adults and adults. (http://pinellascoalition.com)
In 2003, LiveFree! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition was formed after state data showed that Pinellas County was one of the highest-ranking counties for drug use in Florida, particularly among youth. Today, LiveFree! raises awareness about the harmful effects of substance abuse among youth and adults in Pinellas County. By offering training encouraging community advocacy, involving youth and law enforcement, participating in town hall meetings, creating environmental strategies, promoting public awareness and organizing awareness events and more, LiveFree! encourages Pinellas County families to live safe, healthy and drug-f