Parents play a significant role in assisting adolescents to resist negative peer pressure. Parents can assist their teenage children in various ways.
Build the self-esteem of your teenage children:- One of the risk factors for susceptibility to peer pressure is low self-confidence of teenagers. Parents should help build the self-esteem of their teenagers. Self-esteem building needs to begin during childhood and continues during adolescence. Parents can enhance positive self-esteem building of adolescents in many ways: encourage negotiation and self-regulation, open to respond to questions they raise, support an individual teen in the choice he/she makes after proper consultation, discipline the teenager for inappropriate behavior, and provide emotional support in times of failure in doing something.
Create a safe family atmosphere:– Create a safe environment for your teenage children to come to you and talk to you about their experiences with their peers. If you are open to talk to them on any issue with your teenagers, they will bring to you their questions. Try to respond to the questions honestly and straightforwardly. Do not be emotional when they ask you some questions that make you uncomfortable or when they tell you any bad thing that they did. It seems natural to react, but that does not help the teens. Conducive family context also involves adolescents in the family decision making process. When adolescents participate in the family business and have a say, they learn skills of making decisions and how to deal with conflicting views to reach the desired goal. Therefore, try to create a family atmosphere that offers love, affirmation, and support for your teenage children.
Talk about your values to your children:- Do not assume that your teenagers know your values. It is very important that you communicate family values to adolescents both in words and deeds. Adolescents resist peer pressure when they understand and own the family values. When their peers ask them to do something, they know where to stand in light of their family values. Understanding family values will give them a moral framework when they make decisions.
Encourage productive activities:- Help your adolescents to involve themselves in solitary productive activities so that they will not always be looking for friends with which to spend their leisure time.
Share your experience:– Teenagers love to hear the experiences of their father and mother during their adolescence. Reflect on your personal life and share with them something that you learned from your adolescent years. Tell them methods that worked best for you in resisting peer pressure. You can also share your failures and what did not work for you and what you learned from your mistakes. With your strengths, you can be a role model for them. They learn from your failures the importance of avoiding certain points.
When I was about twelve years old, I was shepherding the cattle of my parents. It was Sunday afternoon. My nephew was with me. There was a small sugar cane plantation about two kilometers from where we were. We had not eaten lunch and so we were hungry. My parents did not bring lunch for me (us). My nephew asked me to go and get the sugar cane. I said, “The owner may be in the farm and we would be in trouble.” He responded to my fear, “Today is Sunday and he would be resting at home.” We closely observed if there was anyone in the area. We thought there was no one and went to get the sugar cane.
We crossed a small river, entered the plantation and cut three sugar canes each. The owner saw us from a distance and came running to catch us inside the sugar cane plantation. We were scared to death so we left the sugar cane we cut on the ground and ran. We did not recognize the route to cross the river. When he approached us, we jumped into the river. A stone hit my right leg and a sharp wood stuck in the same leg. Anyway, I crawled and escaped. The person went to the village and told my parents what I and my friend did. Besides being hit by the stone and cut by the wood, I got my reward in the evening. The scar is still on my leg. I told this story to my children and showed them the scar. Whenever, they see me washing my feet, they come and tease me “Where is the scar you got when you were stealing sugar cane?”
Sharing this story gave me a chance to talk to them how a friend can persuade someone to do wrong things and therefore reap the bad consequences. Sometimes the scar may last for a lifetime. For me, the scar is the reminder of the consequence of a wrong decision and action as a result of persuasion from bad company. It also became a means to teach my children how friends can persuade one to do wrong actions.
Choose the right setting:- Adolescents pick up their friends from the neighborhood and schools. Parents can help by choosing the right residential area and schools that provide peers for their teenagers. If you live in a community where members have good ethical life and schools where most students behave ethically, there is high probability for your teens to choose good friends.
Do not push too much:- Many parents I talked to about peer pressure think that strong admonition helps teens to avoid and overcome negative peer pressure. I guess it might work under some few circumstances. However, strong prohibition incites curiosity to do the forbidden activity. When parents threaten teens, adolescents react negatively. They want to perform the prohibited behavior to prove that they have freedom. Therefore, parents are advised to have a firm stand on certain issues; but communicate to their teens in a moderate way. Parents should acknowledge the freedom of the teens and show the benefits of not doing certain things with their friends. Respect the sense of personal freedom and choice of adolescents when you admonish them.