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How to Deal With Peer Pressure: A Guide for Teens

How to Deal With Peer Pressure: A Guide for Teens

Let's face it: teenage years can be tough.

It’s probably the first time in your life when you choose your friends without your parents' input. When you were younger, maybe your mother arranged play dates or other after-school activities; but, if you’re to be honest, you probably didn’t get along with everyone she ‘set you up with.'

All that changes as soon as you become a teenager. You have increased independence, which is great, because you need freedom to develop your own unique personality. And, after all, the best friends are those we choose ourselves. That’s why high school is the perfect time to develop lifelong friendships with people you enjoy spending time with and trust.

High school is the perfect time to develop lifelong friendships with people you enjoy spending time with and trust.

So what about peer pressure?

Peer pressure is often used as a negative term to describe how other people your age persuade you to do things you don’t want to do, like underage drinking. But there are good things about having close relationships with people your age, too.

Positive Peer Pressure

For one, it’s definitely healthy to be able to take advice from people your age that you respect and look up to. Peer relationships can develop your confidence when they are formed with people who have a similar outlook on life as you do. When you make friends with people who share your interests, they can help you to form beliefs and even encourage you to do things you might be afraid to do — positive things, like try out for a sports team or enter a tough competition.

Negative Peer Pressure

But if you find yourself uncomfortable in a group because the kids are behaving in ways you find inappropriate, the risk of becoming pressured to do things you don’t want to do is increased. This is especially true if there are loud, aggressive characters that tend to boss or bully people into doing things they tell them to. If these tougher personalities tend to decide what’s cool and what isn’t, then people tend to feel frightened by them and give in to their demands.

Every teenager wants to feel like they belong at school, and no one wants to be made to feel like the odd one out. It can be hard not to do things to fit in when everyone’s eyes are on you. But remember: by standing up to an unreasonable person, you encourage all the other people who don’t really want to do the things they’re doing to stand up for themselves, too. In that way, consider it an opportunity to show and develop your leadership skills, while being an inspiration for all the other kids who are fed up with being bossed and bullied.

"Everyone's doing it!"

There are other types of peer pressure besides the obvious kind mentioned above, and they are harder to detect. It’s difficult to know how to avoid peer pressure if you can’t identify it in the first place. Let’s run through a few of the other types of peer pressure so you can get a better idea of what to expect.

Some peer pressure is subtle like, say, when you’re offered an alcoholic drink by someone who says “everyone’s doing it,” or “it’s just one drink, what’s the big deal?” These sorts of comments can make you feel like a party-pooper if you say no. But don't worry: there are always ways to get around this pressure in a way that makes you look good.

Think about the above comments for a moment. Take “everyone’s doing it” as an example. It’s actually a pretty unintelligent thing to say, and very dramatic. Everyone isn’t doing it, and that’s for sure. But you don’t want to say that. To get out of a situation like this without losing face, why not reply with some of the following lines?

  • “I know, but liver cancer is rampant in my family and, to be honest, I have better plans for my life.”
  • “My parents are crazy strict; I’m sure they’ve planted a bug on me somewhere. It’s not worth the hassle.”
  • “I’m on a health kick right now – I have an important game coming up, and I plan to win.”
  • “The dog isn’t, and he looks like he’s having an alright time.”

If you keep things light, then you don’t show that you’re feeling intimidated (even if you are on the inside), and that shows confidence and inner strength. Those are the qualities that bring success in life, and whoever says otherwise doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Indirect Peer Pressure

There is also indirect peer pressure, when, say, someone puts a drink in front of you or otherwise makes it easily available. This is covert peer pressure, which is sneaky and underhanded. You need to listen to your gut instinct when you suspect that someone is using a covert peer pressure strategy to get you to do something you don’t want to do. You can either choose to ignore the sight of the drink placed in front of you, or say something like, “That’s the beer my alcoholic uncle used to drink.” It’s quite a big comment to make, but one that will definitely stop people persuading you to drink it. 

Remember: you have the power!

Always know that you have options and that the power is in your hands. Never feel like you have to do anything you don’t want to do, because truthfully, you don't — you are your own person.

If you stand up for yourself as a teenager, chances are you always will. And that means you’ll always be happy with who you are and the choices you make.

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