Back to School: Talking to Your Kids About Peer Pressure

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
August 28, 2018

While it is always important to stress ways your children can combat peer pressure, the start of a new school year is the perfect time for a refresher. While your child’s peers can serve as role models and guides, peer pressure can also have a negative influence in a child’s life.

These negative influences can persuade a young child or teen into doing a number of things that are not healthy, i.e., drinking, having sex, smoking, taking drugs or participating in bullying other students.

Peer pressure is simply the influence your social group may have on you, and it can be positive or negative. It is normal and natural for our friends and social groups to influence us and our choices.  “When we talk about resisting peer pressure, we are talking about learning to resist negative pressure to do something that would not be good for us or that goes against our sense of who we are and what we believe to be important,” says Suzanne Snyder, L.C.S.W., ACCESS Director of Behavioral Health.

Children and adults are best helped to resist negative peer influence by learning and practicing how to say no and learning ways to follow through. 

Here are some key things every parent can teach their child:

  • A simple “no thanks” can be powerful and effective when delivered in a strong, firm voice.
  • You must be ready and expect to have to repeat your refusal more than once.
  • There is a difference between being assertive (standing straight, making eye contact, speaking firmly and using active words like “I won’t” vs. “I can’t”) and aggressive (reacting with anger, yelling, threatening or making fun of the other person).
  • Changing the focus of the conversation works sometimes by simply changing the subject.
  • It’s okay to walk away. If you feel like someone won’t take no for an answer, simply walk away.

Parents are also encouraged to find out what skills the school teaches and practices so that everyone is reinforcing the same skills.  This also lets the school know your expectations around negative peer pressure and bullying and how you want the school engaged.

When you discuss these skills with your child in an open and safe environment, it can really help equip them with valuable lifelong coping skills. If you feel your child needs more support from your medical home, schedule an appointment today.