How to Handle Teen Peer Pressure

Q: My daughter is starting high school this fall and I’m worried she may feel pressured to drink, smoke and more. Any advice?

A: Adolescence is a time of intense peer pressure. During these years, teens are trying to figure out who they are and how to identify themselves. They decide what groups or people they may want to associate with. They also make decisions about their own behavior and what they may or may not choose to do. As a parent, the most important thing to do is to keep the lines of communication open.

Parents play a big role in their children’s lives. By keeping those lines of communication open, you may be able to help influence your daughter’s behaviors. Be honest and explain why you feel a certain way. Don’t just say “I don’t want you to drink,” but rather say “Drinking when you are underage is not only illegal, but you could be put in dangerous situations.” You can then explain that when people consume alcohol, they don’t always make the best decisions and that you are worried about her personal safety. It is possible that she hasn’t thought about it that way.

If risky behaviors do happen – for example you discovered your daughter is smoking – focus on the bad behavior, rather than calling the adolescent herself bad. Lovingly explain why you feel the way you do about a topic and that you are there to support your daughter and help her make the right decisions. This doesn’t mean that you can’t punish her by grounding her, but just make sure you are framing it in the right way – you love her and are concerned about her.

If your daughter knows you support and love her, it will be easier for her to stay strong in the face of pressure from peers to engage in risky behavior.

By Wendy Barton, MD, a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton.