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Youth

If you’re between the ages of 9 and 14, you’ve probably experienced peer pressure. Peer pressure is when a person feels like they should do or not do something in order to fit in or be accepted by their friends or peers. Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing when it encourages us to try something new or make a healthy change, but there are also times when a person can feel pressured to do something more risky or make a decision that could be harmful to their self or to others or do something that we don’t feel ready for. That’s why it’s important to make sure your decisions are right for you based on what you think and try not to worry so much about what others are doing.

Parents

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.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

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:

Educators

Students need to understand what peer pressure is and how to create and communicate their boundaries, since students at this age can feel peer pressure over everything from what to wear, to what to eat, to how to walk and what to believe. It’s very important for teachers to address the topic and give examples for students to think critically about.

At the same time, early and middle adolescents are not able to plan into the future developmentally, so using short-term consequences will be more effective than having them think about possible impacts on them when they are adults. Using things like scenarios, role-plays, video triggers and advice columns can be great ways to get tweens to think about the potential impact of various situations that might involve peer pressure. Also, using techniques like journaling can help students have a private, confidential space to reflect on what they are feeling and how they can handle difficult social situations related to peer pressure.