WARE — Everybody, no matter what age, is faced with pressure to fit in, said Dr. Scott Siege, medical director of BMP – Quabbin Pediatrics. “In our teenage years, this pressure can be even stronger because no one wants to feel like an outsider.”
Teens usually spend more time with their peers than they do with their parents. So, it is quite possible that their peers will have an effect on them. Peer pressure manifests itself in numerous ways, from simple things like the clothes they wear to more serious things such as smoking or using drugs.
“Though not all peer pressure is bad, some of it can have a negative effect on your teenager’s choices,” said Siege, who offered the following advice. “Keep the lines of communication open, and be sure to talk with your children about peer pressure. Point out the challenges that they might face in school or in activities outside of school. Let your teens know that they can come to you about any problems that they face. Actively listen to them. If your teens feel comfortable discussing peer-pressure issues with you, then you’ll be able to help them cope more efficiently and make better decisions.”
One simple safety net is the creation of a code-word,” he went on. “Agree on a word with your teens that they can use to signal a problem. For example, if your child is being pressured to get into a car with someone who has been drinking, he or she can call or text home using this word in the message. This signals the need for help, even just to be picked up from a party. Remember, using the code word must ensure no disciplinary action from parents. Just be glad your teen called you and is safe.”
Little things mean a lot in keeping communication open, Siege added. “Leave your children a note, send an e-mail, keep their favorite snacks on hand, and always say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ to them. When your teen wants to talk, stop whatever you’re doing and give them your undivided attention. Take every opportunity to be a part of their world. Share their favorite music or TV show. Studies have confirmed that parents can have a significant, if not most significant, impact as to whether their teens will engage in risky behaviors, so take the time to have open, caring, thoughtful, ongoing conversations with them.”