July 31, 2012

Eric Shepperd

Battling Peer Pressure as Teens Head Back to School

Lunches are packed, school supplies are purchased, and alarms are set. Yep, it’s that time of the year again — back to school. It can be an exciting time for adolescents entering middle school and high school — new friends, new challenges and new experiences. But with that also come tests, both in and out of the classroom.

Even when trying to do their best academically and socially, it can be hard for teenagers to resist peer pressure. With the pressures of wanting to fit in, many seek approval of their peers and begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Here are some steps parents can take to work with their teen on how to handle peer pressure as they return to school:

#1: Be in the know

Communicate with teens. Teenagers often get into trouble when they act without thinking. Talking about peer pressure can help prepare for a difficult moment with friends. Helping to avoid peer pressure isn’t just about making sure they know the risks involved; it’s about the parent being in the know as well. Parents should be educating themselves on the various stressors that teens might face daily.

From alcohol to prescription drugs, here in Arizona, more and more teens are experimenting at a young age. DrugFreeAz.org provides tools and lists the most popular substances here in Arizona, including the increased use of “synthetic drugs” and marijuana by teens. Parents should monitor their own alcohol and prescription medication to help curb access. One way to stay in the know is to attend a DrugFreeAz.org workshop or an AZ Parents Connect presentation. Our website lists all of our events and workshops. Another way parents can keep up to date on topics and trends is to join the DrugFreeAz.org Parents Club.

#2: Teach teens to recognize risky situations

Peer pressure is something that every teen will face in his or her lifetime. One of the best ways to deal with peer pressure is by working with them to recognize and successfully handle those types of situations. A high school student should feel comfortable saying “no.” But for some teens, saying “no” to their friends and to a “best” friend may be difficult. Talk to your son or daughter about different ways of responding to peer pressure.

Also, encourage walking away from unhealthy friendships built on peer pressure and those that can harm him or her. Develop a rescue plan with your child. Make sure to emphasize that you are available to pick them up or help them if they are ever put in a risky situation and will always prioritize safety over punishment.

#3: Provide positive parenting

Parents should help teens cope with peer pressure by encouraging positive relationships and becoming involved and supportive in his or her interests. When a teen feels confident, he or she is less likely to give in to pressure from others. Participation in after-school clubs and sports will help students avoid potential scenarios and form relationships with peers who share these positive interests. These activities can also occupy the time that teens might otherwise spend participating in negative activities.

Remember what it was like being a teen? With a new school year around the corner, teens will desire to be socially accepted when with new people or in new situations. Ensure a safe and healthy year by being an accountable parent and teaching the strategies needed to cope with peer pressure as the new school year begins. Remember we’re here for you. At DrugFreeAz.org, we’ll help provide tools for you at every step of the way.

For more tips and information about peer pressure, visit DrugFreeAz.org.