Sophie's favorite class, drama, comes right at the end of the day—just when her friends are ready to sneak out of school. Auditions for the school play are being held today, and she really wants to try out. But her friends are telling her to cut class and go to the city with them. She wants to be in the play, but she doesn't want to disappoint her friends. She's feeling peer pressure.
The urge to conform to their peers (kids the same age) is a normal stage for kids ranging in age from about 12 to 21. At this stage, children start looking to their peers—not their parents—to help them figure out everything from what clothes to wear to how serious to be about school. You can play an important role in this process by helping your kids learn to make good choices when they're being influenced—for better or worse—by their peers.
People tend to focus on the bad effects of peer pressure. But the desire to be like their peers can help your children too. On the positive side, peer pressure can provide kids this age with:
Unfortunately, peer pressure can also lead to risky behavior, such as:
The one thing that seems to make all adolescents vulnerable to peer pressure is simply being in this age range. They're just doing what kids their age (middle school to high school) do. Research suggests that peer pressure can be especially difficult to resist because, at this stage of their lives, lots of kids:
As normal as it is for adolescents to go along with their peers, it can be just as normal for parents to take their children's challenging behavior personally. Just try to remember that kids aren't so much rejecting you as they are trying to establish their own identity.
Whether your child is the most popular kid in class or is someone who has few friends, peer pressure can push him or her to do unhealthy things.
Adolescents still need a parent's help to make good decisions—even if they don't act like it. Help them become the people you hope they can be by helping them learn to:
And you can help yourself by learning to:
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