Peer pressure is something many parents worry about, especially as their children reach their teens. The term is used to describe the influence that a group of friends or classmates can have on another person their age.
Peer pressure can happen at any age, but some experts suggest that 11 to 15 year olds are often more susceptible. It’s normal for teens to want to fit in with others their age, whether through wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music, having the same interests or doing the same things. Being the same helps them feel like they belong to the group and are accepted.
But during the lead up to, and when in their teens, the importance and influence of friends tends to increase, so your kids are more likely to be influenced by their friends than you. This can cause quite a bit of adjustment for parents who, up until this time, have been the primary influence in their kid’s lives.
Types of Peer Pressure
Peer pressure can take many forms. For example:
- Pressure to dress the same way.
- Pressure to dye hair.
- Pressure to have ears pierced.
- Pressure to listen to the same music.
- Pressure to change clothing styles.
- Pressure to hang out later.
- Pressure to change your look.
- Pressure to cut your hair.
Whilst most of these are relatively harmless and may only involve a short phase of changing, other forms can cause more stress – for both kids and parents. For example, there’s often pressure to have sex, as ‘everyone else is doing it,’ try smoking, take drugs, have body piercings or get a tattoo. If your child is being pressurised into any of these things, you need to be supportive, help them understand why it’s not such a good option and help them get it into perspective.
Older siblings can also be a great help, as too can other friends, who may be in the same situation. Having two people who are willing to stand up for themselves and resist the pressure is better than one going against the rest of the group. Schools are sometimes a good source of help too, especially with aspects such as sex education or anti-drugs. The main thing is to remain supportive and not get frustrated – let your kid know that they can talk to you about anything and that you’re open to supporting them.
With minor changes, such as dyeing their hair or suddenly abandoning bright colours to wear black everyday, are usually passing phases. It’s best accepted, rather than hating, as you could end up in a constant battle if you don’t like what they’re doing – which may fuel their determination even more! Just remember how you felt when you were their age, and how someone who’s singled out can be made fun of for wearing something that isn’t ‘in.’
Above all, when dealing with peer pressure, don’t panic. In reality, it’s just a part of growing up and helps the development of independence and identity. Kids need to go through a period where they work out their own beliefs and views. Although they may go through times when they seem completely alien to you, in the long run, many kids do come back to the ideas, values and beliefs gained from you, their parents.