The term peer pressure is used so frequently in our culture that many of us gloss over the phrase. Parents may assume their children are already aware of peer pressure and they have heard all the messages: Just say no. Don’t succumb to pressure. Believe in yourself. Be YOUnique. All of the cliches that hang on the walls of school cafeterias are good; however, the issue of peer pressure must constantly be addressed in real and ongoing conversations.
Peer pressure can come in many forms. Impending cultural pressure is often quiet and sneaky. Peer pressure is not just a group of tough boys gathered around some poor kid, pushing a beer in his face saying “Just try it!” The pressure to be on top of their social media game; the pressure to compromise self-respect for the latest styles; and the pressure to share inappropriate images for the sake of fitting in are all examples of the pressures felt by today’s youth.
Parents, pay attention: the affects of peer pressure can absolutely affect the direction of a teen’s life. Small choices that teens make in order to fit in can quickly shift their path until their trajectory is a thousand miles away from where it would be if they had stayed true to themselves.
If a teen is willing to share, be prepared to receive. How a parent reacts will set the tone for future conversations. It is crucial that parents embrace a sensitive, compassionate approach when discussing what may seem to be a shocking situation. In conversation peer pressure does not need to be called “peer pressure.” Simply talking about the latest Snapchat Discovery news, their class bonfire or how they handled a bad call in their soccer game is sufficient in expressing interest and formulating conversation around topics that could become controversial. Conversations about peer pressure should not happen once, but often. Taking interest in what makes your teen a unique individual and emphasizing aspects of their interests and passions will likely lead to the realization that being your own person is actually really cool.