Being “cool” affects everyone, whether you are five or twenty-five, however, it seems like when you are in your younger years, the pressure to follow the crowd can be more appealing. Your child’s favorite TV show, character, and even favorite color can change almost daily as their friends at school give them new ideas. While peer pressure can seem harmless, if you don’t give your kids proper tools to combat it while they are young, they can end up succumbing to it on serious issues like trying drugs or alcohol (studies show that 55% of teens begin using cocaine due to peer pressure). No matter what age your children are, you need to begin teaching them skills to combat peer-pressure today. Read below for tips to help you teach your kids how to say no.
Talk to Them
While this tip may seem obvious, the best thing that you can do to prepare your children to combat peer pressure is to talk to them. Find out what is going on in their lives, what is popular at school, the kinds of things they are interested in, etc. Have age appropriate conversations about what hardships they may be experiencing at school and with their friends. Bring up drugs and alcohol in your regular conversations, and let your kids know that you would like them to avoid those things. Studies show that children are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such doing drugs or drinking alcohol if their parents talk to them about it. Ask them about their experience with drugs, whether they are exposed to it in the media, if they have friends that talk about or do drugs, etc. Make sure that the conversation is a conversation between the two of you and not a lecture. Really listen to the things that your kids have to say.
Know Their Friends
Encourage your kids to bring their friends over to your home. Get to know them by name, and find out what they like to do. Ask your child’s friends questions about their lives. If you do not have the luxury of meeting your child’s friends in person, learn their names and ask about them regularly. Be observant of how your child and their friends act, and notice any subtle changes in dress, appearance, or attitude. Don’t be too nosy, but be present when your children’s friends come over. If you feel like one of your child’s friends is a bad influence on them, sit down with your child and explain the situation to him or her. Let them know that what you are saying is said out of love and concern, not because you are trying to control them.
Have firm, established rules in your household. Children and teenagers need to know what their limits are and how to meet your expectations. Depending on their age, you can involve them in making the rules. Of course, teenagers will have more freedom than your toddler, and they also will have more to say regarding the rules. Involving your children in the rulemaking process will help them to take responsibility for their behavior. Just make sure that you have the final say on the rules. Have a list of “do” rules such as “be home by curfew, wear your seatbelt, talk politely to each other, etc.” and a list of “don’t” rules like “don’t get into a car with a friend who has been drinking, don’t spit, don’t look at inappropriate things online, etc.” Make sure that every rule has a consequence if broken. Also make sure that the consequences are appropriate for the broken rule. For example, don’t ground your child for six weeks if they leave their coat out on the living room floor, but it may be appropriate to bump their curfew up by 15 minutes if they consistently break it.
Teach Them How to Say No
The most important thing you can teach your child when it comes to peer pressure is how to say no. However, simply saying the word “no” isn’t always good enough when it comes to peer pressure. Teach them peer refusal skills: ask a question (figure out what is going on), name the trouble (that’s…), state the consequence (if we do that, then….), suggest an alternative (instead, let’s go…), move it sell it leave the door open (get out of there, but allow your friends to join you later if they choose). If your child is under pressure, teach them to stay calm, say the person’s name, make eye contact, take a breath, and use the skills above. Make sure to stress the importance of getting out of the situation. Let them know that if they need to, they can call you and you will come pick them up.
Play a “what would you do” game and help your child plan out what they would do in certain situations. For example: “You are at a sleepover, and one of your friends wants to show you a movie on the internet that he found. He said that the movie makes him feel really good, and tells you that you have to promise not to tell anyone about the movie. What would you do?” Learn more about how teens start doing drugs because of peer pressure.