HOW PUBERTY AND PEER PRESSURE AFFECTS ADOLESCENTS
It’s normal for young people to worry about fitting in. Peer groups play an important role in young people’s lives, particularly during adolescence. ‘Peer pressure’ refers to the influence that these groups can have on how an individual thinks and acts. You can often find out who your child’s peers are by paying attention to who they socialize with and speak about. Supporting your child to recognize teen peer pressure, when it helps and hinders them, and how they can develop their own individuality, is an important role for parents.
HOW PEER PRESSURE WORKS
A young person can experience peer pressure in varying degrees especially when they attain puberty. Sometimes their peers may proactively influence them to behave in certain ways and at other times they may be just following along. Both of these situations are based on seeking approval, but it is also possible for peer pressure to be a result of bullying. This is when your child fears being teased or physically hurt for not conforming.
HOW DOES PEER PRESSURE AFFECT TEENAGERS?
You may associate peer pressure with negative outcomes such as your child trying alcohol, smoking or drugs. However, peer pressure can also allow certain groups to have positive influences on your child. There’s no way of knowing exactly how your child will be affected. Peer pressure can influence any area of your child’s life, from their taste in music to their choice of school subjects.
POSITIVE EFFECTS OF PEER PRESSURE AND PUBERTY INCLUDE:
- a sense of belonging and support
- increased self-confidence
- introduction to positive hobbies and interests
- Reinforcement of positive habits and attitudes.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PEER PRESSURE AND PUBERTY INCLUDE:
- pressure to use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
- pressure to engage in risk taking behaviours
- distraction from schoolwork
- distance between family and existing friends
- Drastic changes in behavior and attitudes.
- Self-esteem and mental health issues
It’s important to remember that peer influence and pressure is a normal part of adolescence. As your child starts moving away from the parent-child relationship and seeking their own independence and identity, their peers will become more important to them. However, if you’re concerned about the effects of peer pressure on your child and think that it’s negatively impacting on their life, there are things that you can try to support them.
Peer influence is when you choose to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do, because you want to feel accepted and valued by your friends. It isn’t just or always about doing something against your will.
You might hear the term ‘peer pressure’ used a lot. But peer influence is a better way to describe how teenagers’ behaviour is shaped by wanting to feel they belong to a group of friends or peers.
Peer pressure and influence can be positive. For example, your child might be influenced to become more assertive, try new activities or get more involved with school.
But it can be negative too. Some teenagers might choose to try things they normally wouldn’t be interested in, like smoking or behaving in antisocial ways.
PEER PRESSURE AND PUBERTY MIGHT RESULT IN TEENAGERS:
- choosing the same clothes, hairstyle or jewelry as their friends
- listening to the same music or watching the same TV shows as their friends
- changing the way they talk or the words they use
- doing risky things or breaking rules
- working harder at school or not working as hard
- dating or taking part in sexual activities
- Smoking or using alcohol or other drugs.
WARNING SIGNS OF PEER PRESURE DURING PUBERTY
Warning signs include:
- Low moods, tearfulness or feelings of hopelessness
- Aggression or antisocial behaviour that’s not usual for your child
- Sudden changes in behaviour, often for no obvious reason
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking early
- Loss of appetite or over-eating
- Reluctance to go to school
- Withdrawal from activities your child used to like
- Statements about wanting to give up, or life not being worth living.
BEING YOURSELF: A BALANCE FOR PEER PRESSURE DURING PUBERTY
It’s normal to worry that your child is being influenced too much by their peers when they attain puberty, or that they’re compromising on their values (or yours) to fit in with their friends. It’s also normal to worry that your child won’t be able to say no if they get pressure to try risky things, like wagging school or smoking. But listening to the same music and dressing in the same way as friends doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will also do antisocial or risky things.
If your child is happy with who they are and their choices and values, they’re less likely to be influenced by other people. Your child might choose to do some things that their friends do, but not others. And your influence is important here – it’s the biggest factor shaping your child’s values and long-term choices.
HELPING PRE-TEENS AND TEENAGERS MANAGE PEER PRESSURE AS THEY ATTAIN PUBERTY
Coping well with peer influence is about getting the balance right between being yourself and fitting in with your group. Here are some ideas to help your child:
- Build Self Confidence
Confidence can help teenagers resist negative peer influence. That’s because confident teenagers can make safe, informed decisions and avoid people and situations that aren’t right for them. You can build your child’s confidence by encouraging them to try new things that give them a chance of success, and to keep trying even when things are hard. Praising your child for trying hard is important for building confidence too. You can also be a role model for confidence, and show your child how to act confident as the first step towards feeling confident.
- Build teenage self-compassion
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and treating yourself with the same warmth, care and understanding you’d give to someone you care about. When teenagers have self-compassion, it can help them handle any stress and anxiety related to peer influence.
- Keep the lines of communication open
You can do this by staying connected to your child. This helps your child feel they can come to you to talk if they’re feeling pressured to do something they’re uncomfortable with.
- Give teenage a way out
If your child feels they’re in a risky situation, it might help if they can text or phone you for back-up. You and your child could agree on a coded message for those times when your child doesn’t want to feel embarrassed in front of friends. For example, they could say that they’re checking on a sick grandparent, but you’ll know that it really means they need your help. If your child does call you, it’s important to focus on your child’s positive choice to ask you for help, rather than on the risky situation your child is in. Your child is more likely to ask for help if they know they won’t get into trouble.
- Encourage a wide range of social network
If your child has the chance to develop friendships from many sources, including sport, family activities or clubs, it will mean they’ve got plenty of options and sources of support if a friendship goes wrong.