Helping your child handle peer pressure

Dr Karla Hylton

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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We all want to fit in. It's a social need for humans, young or old, to feel accepted and to fit in with our peers. Friends, pals, buddies, peers — whatever names they are called — are an important part of everybody's lives, including our children. They spend most of their waking hours in school with other children of similar age and as such, our influence — though potentially great — can often be eclisped by that of their peers.

Peer pressure, the influence from members of one's peer group, often results in taking a course of action one would not normally take. Making decisions by oneself can be difficult. When it is compounded by others who may try to pressure you one way or another, it becomes even harder.

Influence is communicated just by spending time with them. Both parties learn from each other.

Of course, not all influences are to be discredited since peer pressure can be both positive or negative.

Positive peer pressure can provide kids with:

Friendship and acceptance

Good study and homework habits

Opportunity to learn about new cultures

Support to do their best

Influence to try new sporting activities

Stimulus to try new healthy foods

Incentive to read and share new books

Encouragement to volunteer

Boost religious and spiritual development

Negative peer influence may result in children:

Listening to unacceptable music

Using inappropriate language

Breaking rules

Slacking off at school

Sexting

Cheating on tests

Shoplifting

Bullying

Taking part in sexual activities

Smoking or drinking

Choosing similar hairstyles or way of dressing.

Kids want to fit in and to be like other kids who they admire. They want to do what others do and have what others have. During the adolescence years in particular, children start to look to their peers and not their parents for guidance and to figure out life.

The fear of rejection and loneliness are also very prominent in the decisions the make under the influence of peer pressure. Some kids lack the skills and resilience to remove themselves from a pressure situation.

Children who are have strong self-esteem are better at resisting negative peer pressure. Despite the interactions with peers that occur on a daily basis, parents have immense influence. Here are some tips to help your child manage peer pressure:

Communication

As always, keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your kids every day without exception. Make sure that you speak with your child in such a way that he or she is comfortable sharing unpleasant issues. Make them understand and differentiate between their right and wrong choices. Inculcate healthy values and upright morals.

Get to know your child's friends

While you may not be able to know all the other kids in your child's class, make an effort to know the friends in the inner circle. Get to know the parents of these friends and draw your own conclusion as to the character of your child's friends. I am not suggesting that you choose your child's friends, however, if something disturbs you about the character of the friend, then you have all right to take action.

Encourage a wide circle of friendship

If possible, urge your child to make friends from many sources such as sporting activities, clubs, extra classes, church, etc.

Build your child's self-esteem

It is important to make your child feel confident about him/herself. Give him/her the tools he/she needs to be resilient in the face of challenges and disagreements.

Talk to your child about peer pressure

Help your child to understand that peer pressure is real; and to understand the dynamics of this influence. Everybody experiences peer pressure at some point in their lives. Give them ideas as to how to stand up to peer pressure. Explore 'what if' scenarios. You may even role-play. Share your own experiences.

Use youself as an excuse

Let your kids know that if they face a situation where they are out of options as to how to resist, they can always refuse by blaming you. They could say: “My parents will punish me if I do that”.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com .

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