Teens Under Pressure

Teens Under Pressure

“Just try it, everyone does it, it’s not even that bad.”

“Hurry up and just take it, no one is looking.”

“She’s such a prude, don’t even try getting to know her.”

“That new kid is a loser, no one likes him.”

The pressure to fit in, to be liked and respected, and to be accepted by peers is a very normal human experience.  While much of the pressure our children and teens face is explicit (like the examples above), they can also feel pressure by just watching or knowing that peers are engaging in behaviors that they are not. For example, knowing that all their friends have snapchat and they are not yet allowed to download that app can feel like pressure to a teen.

Think back to when you were a child or teenager.  Who were your friends?

Did they ever make you feel pressured to do something that you were not comfortable doing or saying, but you did it anyway?

When your child is young, you have much more influence over who he/she/they will be friends with by setting up or planning your child’s social experiences.

Much of this changes when your child becomes a teenager.  Now they start to take ownership of who they hang out with – some you may know, some you may have never met or even heard of before.  This may seem scary, but it is a natural occurrence and incredibly important for your teen to gain some level of independence in making choices about who they want to spend time with.  Adolescence is the transition period between childhood and adulthood, and it is healthy for them to explore new friendships, activities, and experiences.

As school and other activities take your child away from home, they may spend more time with peers than with you, their parent.  This step is part of our child’s pathway to develop their own identity, to discover who they are, and ultimately who they want to be as human beings.  Friends play a big role in their journey.

Carrie Potoff, LCSW often reminds parents that peer relationships have a profoundly positive effect on their kids.  They offer friendship, opportunities to expand one’s social skills, encouragement, and new experiences.

But on the flip side, your child’s friends may also pressure them into doing something they are not comfortable with, such as doing drugs or drinking, stealing, cheating on an exam, or having sex before they feel ready.

We can’t monitor our children and teens at every moment or control their behavior, but there are ways that we can communicate and support them in making healthy choices as they grow.

Here are some ideas shared by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on how to help your kids manage peer pressure:

  • Encourage open and honest communication. Let your kids know they can come to you if they’re feeling pressure to do things that seem wrong or risky.
  • Teach your child to be assertive and to resist getting involved in dangerous or inappropriate situations or activities.
  • Get to know your child’s friends. If issues or problems arise, share your concerns with their parents.
  • Get to know how your child interacts with friends and others online.
  • Communicate openly about safe internet and social media use.
  • Help your child develop self-confidence. Kids who feel good about themselves are less vulnerable to peer pressure.

Develop backup plans to help kids get out of uncomfortable or dangerous situations. For example, let them know you’ll always come get them, no questions asked, if they feel worried or unsafe.