Teens today are bombarded with peer pressure on a wide variety of things. As a parent there are things you can do to help your teen better deal with the peer pressure they receive. To help understand what type of impact peer pressure can have on a teen and what a parent can do to help their teen, I have interviewed therapist Hope Weiss LCSW.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Hello, my name is Hope Weiss, and I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I received my Master in Social Work at Tulane University where I specialized in the child and family track. I have a private counseling practice in Longmont, Colorado which is about 45 minutes north of Denver. I work with teens, families and individual adults to help them create happier and healthier lives. My practice specialties include self-esteem, divorce and abuse/trauma. In my practice I use both creative and verbal means of expression depending upon my client’s needs and preferences.
What are some common things in today’s world that teens are peer pressured about?
There is much more of a pressure to be sexual and sexually active in today’s teen world. While in the past the pressure may have been from the opposite sex, in today’s world there is pressure from both boys and girls. Teens are now sending sexually provocative pictures to other teens and posting their sexual exploits on their Facebook pages. Teens are also sexually active at a younger age. Other things that teens are pressured about include doing drugs, drinking, how they present themselves (dress, act and have the same interests as their friends), how they deal with stress (cutting is very popular among teen girls- this is more of an indirect peer pressure) and school achievement.
What type of impact can peer pressure have on a teen’s overall life?
Peer pressure can lead teens to make choices that they don’t feel good about. They can basically lose themselves. They become what other people want them to be to fit in. It becomes about making others happy and ignoring your true feelings. This can lead to low self-esteem and depression. There may also be permanent consequences that affect teen’s lives such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or drug abuse.
What can a parent do to help their child deal with the peer pressure?
One of my big guidance points with parents is to learn how to listen to their children. Parents want to protect their children and what this often leads to is parents going into fixing their children’s problems instead of supporting their children in figuring things out for themselves. The teens who report being able to talk to their parents about peer pressure and other teenage issues say that these parents don’t go into solving their problems (which can be frustrating for the teens), but really listen to what they are saying. These parents ask follow-up questions to encourage them to share how they are feeling about the situation and discuss possible choices that they are contemplating. Sometimes teens want advice, but it’s important for parents to ask whether their teens want them to listen without giving any advice or would indeed like some guidance. If a parent feels comfortable they can share some challenging experiences with peer pressure that they had as a teen. This will help the teen see her parent as a real authentic person. However, it is important for parents to know that while there may be some similarities in the teen’s lives of today and their own experiences as teens, there are additional challenges for the teenager of the present.
It’s also important for parents to acknowledge the things that they appreciate in their children and let them know that they don’t have to let go of those very things to fit in.
What last advice would you like to leave for a parent who wants to help their child deal with the peer pressure?
I know this is going to be hard, but when your child says something that blows your mind it’s important to not outwardly “freak out”. Teens will shut down if their parents get upset with what they’re sharing with them. You may want to scream because of what your teen is saying, but it’s important to maintain a calm exterior so your teen will feel that it’s okay to continue sharing his/her experiences. While your teen may not always want to talk about what they are going through, just being there and letting your children know you are there will help your children feel safe and loved.
Thank you Hope for doing the interview on teens and peer pressure. For more information on Hope Weiss or her work you can check out her website at www.HopeIsThere.com or contact her at (303) 717-8645.
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