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Ways to Navigate Peer Pressure in Teens and Adolescents

Updated on August 9, 2016

Dealing With Peer Pressure


What is peer pressure?

A peer is someone in your own age group, while pressure is the feeling that you are being pushed forward to make a certain choice –good or bad. Therefore peer pressure can defined as the feeling that your own age group is pushing you to change your attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform to the group norms.

Peer pressure can show itself in lots of ways including:

v Getting involved in particular activities

v Dressing in certain way for instance the punk style

v Decisions about drugs and alcohol

v Decisions about who to date

v Listening to particular music for example Reggae, Jass, Hip Pop, Rap

v Choice about who to befriend

v Academic performance like conquering your fear public speaking

That desire to be to part of something or have good friends can put a lot of pressure on you to act in a certain way. When you’re influenced to do something you wouldn’t normally do, or stopped from doing something you’d like to do, because you want to be accepted by someone or a group, you are already under peer pressure.

In your teen and adolescent years, peers: your friends, classmates, and other peers play a big role in your social and emotional development. It can be tough in social situations to not go along with others, even if you know it is a bad idea. You want to fit in, you’re not entirely sure how others will react, and maybe things will work right? But giving into peer pressure can not only compromise your beliefs, self-worth, and sometimes lead to real tragedies. At school you’re faced with so much smoking, bullying, drugs and sex. You know that what your friends want you to do is stupid. But you get to this point where you feel you just can’t say no.

Peer pressure is not always bad. You and your friends can pressure each other into things that will improve your health and social life and make you feel good about your decisions. They might, for instance, stop you from doing something that you’ll regret later or push you to do something good for yourself. Having good friends in our life is important to our happiness, but sometimes trying to fit in with a group can turn sour.

These are some good things friends can pressure you into doing:

  • Be honest
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid drugs
  • Not smoke
  • Be nice to people
  • Having respect for others
  • Do exercise together to be healthier

It is natural to want to be accepted by others. Peer pressure plays on that desire. Will you because you want to belong allow others to shape what you believe? Or do you have the courage to stand up for your convictions? Do you find it difficult to stand up for what you know is right? Would you like to be able to resist peer pressure without appearing tense or afraid? You can.

Ways you can navigate peer pressure include:

Anticipate

Often, you can see trouble in advance, for instance you see a group of your schoolmates up ahead, and they are smoking. How likely is it that they will offer you a cigarette? By anticipating the problem, you will be ready either to avoid them or confront them.

Say no

When you find yourself in bad peer pressure situation, it can be very difficult to gracefully bow out. When a peer brings up a bad idea simply say, “No, thank you.” You should know that sticking up for what you believe in is what will make you feel good. If you can explain to your friends or peers in a calm way something’s not for you, more often than not, you’ll gain their respect. The silent majority may also be thinking the same as you, but too scared to say no. It often takes just one person to stand up to turn a situation. Be polite and mannerly. Some consequences of refusing to fit in can be rejection, name calling, or loss of esteem. A good rule to follow when in doubt is to ask yourself, if you will be proud of yourself when the ordeal is over.

Think

You might ask yourself, “How will I feel in the long run if I go along with the group?” True, you might gain the temporary approval of your peers. But how will you feel later, when you are with your parents? Are you willing to sacrifice your family good name just to please your classmates? Think.

Try not to judge others

Respecting your friends’ choice may help them respect yours. Friends don’t have to agree on everything, and understanding that will make both parties more likely to be less defensive about their choices.

Value common interest

Try to hang out with people who do like similar stuff with you. Some people make the mistake of trying to befriend people who are not friend worthy. A real friend may not entirely share your beliefs, but will respect you. Take note:

  • Drinking with certain friends might make you a buddy, but will they be there when you are drunk and need a helping hand?
  • Having sex with someone does not guarantee they care.
  • Real friends stop you from taking physical challenge too far, not urge you on, and laugh at you when you are injured.

Decide

Now it’s your turn to decide what you want and stick to it. While having your own opinion about something is greatly valued, try not to go boasting about it unless you truly want to. And know what you are getting yourself into. Some of your peers are not going to be very happy if you hate something they love or vice versa.

Act

You might think this is the hardest part. It’s not. If you have already thought about the consequences and made up your mind, stating your position can be surprisingly easy and rewarding. You can say, “Count me out”, “Come on, you know better than that.” The key is to respond promptly and with conviction. If you do, you might be surprised how quickly your peers will back off. What if they mock you? What if they say, “What is wrong, are you are a coward?” recognize this sort of taunt for what it is –peer pressure. You can response in three ways:

  1. You can absorb the taunt –you’re right, I’m scared.
  2. You can deflect the pressure by stating your position, while not making an issue over it.
  3. You can return the pressure. State your reason for refusing and then appeal to your peers’ intellect for instance by saying, “I thought you were too smart to smoke.”

Blame your parent(s)

One good excuse for you to give for not doing something is simply saying you would suffer harsh consequences at home for doing it. “Oh, I can’t go to a drinking party, my father will be mad with me.” Or “Oh, you don’t know my mom, she would check on me.” It always sounds like a viable reason.

What to do if things get serious

No matter how skilled you are at navigating peer pressure, you can only control your own behavior and there are some situations where pressure from other people can get out of hand. If your peers continue to taunt you, leave the scene. For instance, if you find yourself at a drinking party, someone else will happily go with you somewhere else for alcohol free fun. The longer you stay, the more intense the pressure will become. It was nice you took control of the situation. You didn’t let your peers squeeze you into their mold. Note that if you yield to pressure from your peers, you become their puppet. If you still feel threatened, or you’re being hurt, or still being pressured into something that you are really uncomfortable with, you need to tell someone. Tell your parents, a friend from outside the group, a teacher, or a counselor. It’s horrible to be in a bad situation and shouldn’t have to deal with it on your own. Get support and get help.

Conclusion

Put these thoughts into practice. Imagine some type of scenario, if you will, where everyone is going along with something and you don’t like it or don’t want to be a part of it. Will you go along with them anyway just to belong? If you don’t feel comfortable, just walk away. It is hard first few times if peer pressure has a firm grip of you, but as time goes on, it will get easier. Just reach into the depths of your mind and tell yourself that you don’t like it and don’t want to do it and stay true to that. So, some people don’t like you for rejecting what you don’t like. Do you really want their opinion? Do you even like them? If not, then what does their opinion matter? Or even if it is a close friend, what does his opinion matter? What is important is what you think is acceptable to you.

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