As kids become adolescents, they are exposed to a wide range of new experiences and often mature at vastly different rates. The range of maturity among a group of tweens who are very close in age can be surprising, but it’s all completely normal. This also means that some tweens are curious about, and starting to experiment with, different behaviors and choices. These can involve behaviors such as pushing boundaries, being dishonest, breaking rules, trying tobacco, alcohol or drugs and sometimes sexual behaviors. It’s important for parents to talk with their tweens before any of these behaviors start so they can equip them with information about decision-making, getting help and the impact of peer pressure. Tweens need to know they can come to us about anything, even if it’s hard to talk about, like peer pressure.
Developmentally, early and middle adolescents strive to be part of their perceived peer group and at times, little else is important. That means that tweens’ decision-making is often heavily influenced by their peers or their perception of their peers, and while this is developmentally appropriate, it can also make navigating choices rough. Making sure that your child knows what peer pressure is; how to make decisions for themselves despite feeling that pressure; that you, their parent or caregiver, are there to support them no matter what and that you trust they will make healthy and safe decisions are all important messages during this point in their development.
It’s essential that you have conversations about topics like peer pressure if your child is to know that she or he can come to you with questions. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life, like while watching TV or listening to music together.
Below are some ways to start these conversations: