It is very difficult for most teens to resist peer pressure.  

They want to be like their friends and belong to a peer group.  That is a teenager’s developmental task.  However, sometimes they are pressured by friends to do things that place them at risk for bad outcomes.  While teens are prone to risky behaviors in general, parents can guide their choices by teaching them good problem solving and communication skills. 

resist peer pressureYouth find it difficult to resist peer pressure for a number of reasons.  They usually will try to belong to a peer group and may be afraid of being rejected by the group.  They may not be as self-assured as most adults and so they may fear making people angry, as well.  Sometimes they are in a situation where friends are drinking or using drugs or doing other risky things.  They don’t want to join in, but they don’t know how to get out of the situation, either. 

The following are some tips to help teens resist peer pressure:

To help teens build skills in these areas to resist peer pressure, parents need to discuss the difficult teen issues with confidence, understanding and respect before they happen.  Talk about alcohol, drugs, sex, fast cars, hazing, and dangerous pranks.  Discuss the pros and cons of each risky behavior that they may encounter in a realistic manner.  Tell them you understand that they are trying to figure out who they are by trying different behaviors and ways of being. 

Talk to them about choices they will have to make and the consequences or outcomes of each.  Then help them role play how they might handle these very difficult situations and what the outcomes might be.  This can build their skills and confidence and ability to make good choices and resist peer pressure.  Parents cannot be there for every choice their teenager makes, so they need to help them learn how to make good choices when parents are not around. 

Help teens resist peer pressure by letting them know:

    • They have the right to say, “no”
    • They can be assertive and firm without being angry
    • They can use a strong voice, stand up tall, and look their peers in the eye.
    • It is important to tell people how they feel
    • It is always an option to walk away
    • Adults have peer pressure, too.  Give them examples that you have faced. 

It is important to talk to young people about why some people do unhealthy things such as using substances.  Discuss the age limits of drinking alcoholic beverages and why these limits are important.  Talk about smoking as part of a general talk on being healthy.  It’s good to have everyone in the family reinforce healthy behavior. 

Parents can’t just tell their teen to resist peer pressure, they have to demonstrate it and talk about it.  Calmly talking about difficult topics should become routine within a family.  In that way, youth become comfortable sharing what is going on in their lives.  Keep the line of communication open. 

To help them resist peer pressure, teach your teens to argue effectively for a particular point of view.  Additionally, parents need to be calm and reasonable during family arguments.  Respect and listen to your teen’s point of view.  Encourage teens to spend time with family and friends that do not get into trouble.

The teenage years are difficult for teens and parents.  Parents are teachers and guides so their teens grow up to be healthy in every way possible.

kathy seifert, ph.d.Dr. Kathryn Seifert, Executive Director of Eastern Shore Psychological Services, has worked for over 30 years in the areas of mental health, criminal justice, and addictions and has provided treatment and assessment services to youth and adults in community settings.

She holds a Ph.D. and is a licensed psychologist in Maryland. Dr. Seifert has specialized in the assessment and treatment of youth and adults. She has lectured both nationally and internationally and provides training on the topics of “Assessing the Risk for Violence,” “Attachment Disorders,” and “Attachment Violence & Assessment.”

Her books and CD’s include: How Children Become Violent, Youth Violence, and Relax. Her blog can be found on the Psychology Today website . She has appeared on CNN and Discovery ID.

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