WOMAN 2 WOMAN: Help your child to cope with peer pressure

 Remember when your teenager took her first steps as a baby? You hovered behind her -- back bent, arms spread -- prepared to catch her should she fall. Much as you might like, you can’t shadow your adolescent as you did back then, being there to shield her from falling when she missteps.

Remember when your teenager took her first steps as a baby? You hovered behind her -- back bent, arms spread -- prepared to catch her should she fall.

Much as you might like, you can’t shadow your adolescent as you did back then, being there to shield her from falling when she missteps.

So, just what high-risk behaviour might your adolescent feel pressured to engage in? Plenty, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – it periodically conducts surveys on health-risk behaviour among youth.

The latest survey results indicate that teen peer pressure is real and on the rise.

Many adolescents are engaging in behaviour that place their health at risk -- including cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and sexual activity.

And in all likelihood, their peers are pushing them to try these behaviour. For instance the survey indicated that about one in every three kids aged 14 to 15 has had sexual intercourse. Of sexually active teens, almost 30percent used no protection during their last sexual encounter.

Peer pressure also forces teenagers in particular to emulate unrealistic body ideals yet this causes some body and emotional injury in the long run.

For teenage girls in particular, it is common to find them with a mentality of becoming models!!

They go ahead to “pursue” a career in modelling by dieting though they end up starving themselves.

All in the name of wanting to appear like Tyra Banks and the like! Forgetting that modelling is not all about size, it takes more than the size of your body to be a model! 

“There’s a lot of peer pressure to have your body look a very specific way,” says Dr. Lauren Solotar a chief psychologist at May Institute in Massachusetts.

While the desire to look “fit and thin” is more pronounced among girls, she notes that many boys as young as middle-school age are on the quest for “six-pack” bodies.

“There seem to be some peers who are engaging in this behaviour [slashing their arms], and persuading others to try it,” Solotar says.

In spite adolescents’ vulnerability and the strong influence of peers, parents can exert a positive influence on their adolescents’ decision-making processes, offering them ways to combat the effects of peer pressure.

Below are some tips by experts on how to help your child:
Keep communication lines open - Talk to your kids -- and don’t wait until they are teens.

Healthcare professionals, counsellors, and educators agree unanimously that open communication between parents and their children helps youth better manage teen peer pressure.

It’s never too early to have an honest conversation about drugs, sex and other pressures.

Most parents prefer to wait until their children have actually become adults (at University) to start “talking” forgetting that by this time, most teenagers have experienced a lot of peer pressure.

Practice peer pressure scenarios

Teen peer pressure may come as a surprise to your child. Out of the blue, he may be offered a cigarette or a swig of alcohol, and he may have no idea how to respond. You can help prepare him for these scenarios.

“Find a calm period, prior to or during early adolescence, and role play,” Solotar suggests. It’s much easier to manage a situation if you have already thought it out.

Listen to your teen’s perspective

Express your personal opinions, but do not let them shut down communication. You want to make clear to your adolescent what you believe in.

But if you shut down on certain topics, your child will not come to talk to you as a trusted adult.

Think beyond punishing responses

A parent’s initial reaction to an adolescent who comes home drunk may be to punish. But, ultimately, that is not a solution to the real problem.

Punishing does not get at what you need to change the behaviour.

If a teen is 14 years and she is drinking, there is probably a good reason for it. If you address it, maybe she will stop the alcohol.

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