Helping Preteens Resist Peer Pressure

School girls bullying
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If your child is a tween or is headed to middle school, chances are he or she will encounter some pretty serious peer pressure. Peer pressure tends to escalate in middle school and can continue all through high school. But parents can help their children identify peer pressure, and manage it with confidence. The key to helping your preteen overcome peer pressure is to inform, offer strategies, and keep the lines of communication open between the two of you.

Talk About It

Be sure your preteen understands that peer pressure is going to happen, if it hasn't already, and that you're there to help. Ask if friends have already applied pressure to get your tween to do something she didn't want to do, like smoking or being mean to another child at school. Ask your tween how she handled the situation, or if she has questions about dealing with peer pressure.

It might also help your child to know that you had to deal with peer pressure when you were a tween. Share examples of situations you encountered and how you managed them.

It's also important that your child know that he or she is responsible for following your family rules. No matter how hard the peer pressure may be, if you've forbidden the activity, it's off limits. If your child breaks the rules, she needs to know that consequences will follow.

Identify the Pressure

Not all peer pressure is bad. Sometimes your child's friends may be able to get your tween to do things that you haven't been able to accomplish.
Friends who are positive influences can use peer pressure to get your preteen to study more, join in on an extracurricular activity or sports team, or run for student office. It's even possible that peer pressure can encourage your child to be more responsible or polite to others. If your child's friends have a positive influence over him, consider yourself lucky.

Know Your Child's Friends, Keep in Touch with Other Parents

The best way to know what sort of peer pressure your preteen is up against is to take the time to get to know your child's friends.
Without being too inquisitive, ask your tween about his friends. What subjects do they like? Are they involved in activities? Where do they live? What do you like to do when you're together?

Invite your tween's friends over to your home for dinner or a sleepover, so you can see how they interact with each other. It's also a good idea to stay in touch with other parents. Staying in touch with other parents of preteens is the best way to find out what's going on at school, who is doing what and where, etc. If you have an idea about what's taking place at school or after school, you can better equip your preteen to deal with the peer pressure he's likely to face.

Be Flexible

Your child will have a tough time dealing with peer pressure if everything is off limits to him. Be fair when it comes to establishing a curfew, or allowing your tween to participate in activities with his friends. If your child has earned your trust, you can offer even more opportunities for him to show you how mature he can be.

However, be sure you stand your ground when your tween is asking to do something, or go somewhere, that you think is dangerous or is a bad idea.

Your preteen is growing up, but you're still the parent and are responsible for his safety.

Role Play Possible Scenarios

Take the time to role play situations your tween will likely face in middle school, such as being encouraged to smoke, drink, or bully another child. By role playing you'll gain information on how other preteens try to manipulate your child through peer pressure. You can also give your child ideas on how to say no or get out of uncomfortable situations.

Be the Scapegoat

Make sure your tween understands that she can always blame you if her friends put pressure on her to do something she doesn't want to do, or that she knows is wrong. If her friends are encouraging her to smoke, she can say, "My parents would kill me if they found out and they're so nosy they always find things out!" Or, she could say, "If my parents find out, I know they'll call your parents and then you'll be in trouble, too."

If your child finds himself in a situation that's uncomfortable for him and he wants to leave, he can say, "I'm supposed to help my parents with a project this afternoon, so I better go."

In the end, if you keep communicating with your preteen, you'll be better prepared to help him deal with peer pressure.

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