middle school students taking selfie

Middle schoolers today face various types of peer pressure. Examples of good peer pressure may include developing good study habits, portraying excellent sportsmanship, and recommending great books to read. On the other hand, bad peer pressure may include skipping classes, bullying classmates, or committing crimes. 

Make your child feel comfortable coming to you with their personal struggles and concerns by being emotionally available and initiating conversation. To provide your teen with optimal protocols, utilize this step-by-step guide to talk to your middle schooler about successfully combating negative peer pressure.

Step 1: Create opportunities to talk openly about peer pressure

Serious conversations with parents aren’t what most teens would consider fun. While the activity is necessary, think of the ways you can make it more enjoyable for your child. Offer to go out for ice cream, bond over movies or video games, or let them invite their friends over. As you talk with them, explain what it means to be a good friend, the importance of saying “no,” and the consequences of making bad choices. Focus on staying calm while providing firm boundaries.

Step 2: Volunteer your own experiences 

As you’re discussing peer pressure with your pre-teen or teenager, self-disclose your own personal experiences when you were their age while offering insight and valuable lessons you learned along the way. Speak on the importance of being yourself, holding onto your values, and finding friends who will stick by your side and accept you for who you are. Additionally, explain the reasons why they should do the same for their friends. 

Step 3: Provide exit strategies

Once you’ve delved into the manifestations and consequences of peer pressure with your child, the next step is to give them the tools to reject it successfully. Here are a few existing strategies your child can use:

  • Thinking before acting. Challenge your child to first weigh the pros and cons of their potential actions and to measure how these choices may affect his or her integrity and reputation. 
  • Engaging in humor. Though peer pressure is serious, in light of an actual situation, it may help your child to ease a moment’s tension by playfully explaining why a certain behavior may not be a good idea. 
  • Saying “no.” Encourage your child to simply say no. Coach them on the best way to do this by holding practice sessions to make them more comfortable and confident.

Step 4: Understand the impact of social media on peer pressure

Social media platforms have become a ubiquitous aspect of modern life for many young people. However, they can also create additional pressure to fit in and conform to social norms that may not align with a child’s personal values or beliefs. Parents can help their children navigate this challenge by discussing the potential impact of social media on their self-esteem, mental health, and relationships. Parents can also encourage their children to use social media in positive ways, such as connecting with friends who share similar interests, rather than simply seeking approval from a broader group.

Step 5: Help build self-esteem and confidence

Children with low self-esteem may be more vulnerable to negative peer pressure. Parents can help their children build self-esteem by acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments, offering praise and positive feedback, and encouraging their child to pursue their interests and passions. It can also be helpful to help children set goals and work towards achieving them. By doing so, children can feel a sense of accomplishment, which can help build confidence.

Step 6: Encourage independence

Middle school years can often be a time of exploration where teens experiment and learn who they are and where they stand in relation to their peers. To help your teen stay grounded and focus on what matters, encourage them to do things they can proudly take ownership of, even if it means jumping off the bandwagon. Encourage them to never defy their own morals and to stand up for themselves, no matter their differences. 

Step 7: But also set boundaries

Children need to learn how to set healthy boundaries and communicate their limits with their peers. Parents can help their children develop these skills by discussing different scenarios and working with their child to identify what feels comfortable and acceptable. It is also important to help children practice assertiveness and self-respect so that they can effectively communicate their boundaries while also respecting the boundaries of others.

Step 8: Check in with your child

Checking in with your middle schooler means putting in the time and effort to deeply engage with your child and dig into the nitty gritty of peer pressure while offering techniques on how to avoid it. Signs of your teen engaging in peer pressure include long-term moodiness, missing school, and sleeping or eating troubles. Watch out for these signs so that you can engage your child immediately. 

The importance of emotionally connecting with your middle schooler cannot be overstated as they navigate through issues such as peer pressure within their social circles. Being emotionally available, sharing your own experiences, and offering effective strategies and support can protect your child from challenging situations. 

Step 9: Understand peer pressure can come from authority figures

Peer pressure can come from various sources, including teachers, coaches, and other authority figures in a child’s life. For example, a coach may pressure a child to perform at a higher level or take risks that the child may not feel comfortable with, or a teacher may pressure a child to conform to certain academic or social expectations.
Parents can help their children recognize when this type of pressure is occurring and provide guidance on how to address it in a respectful and assertive manner. Encouraging children to communicate openly and honestly with authority figures can be helpful, as can teaching children how to set and communicate boundaries. Parents can also help children identify trusted adults, such as a school counselor or a family member, who they can turn to for support in challenging situations.

Step 10: Seek additional support when needed

Children may sometimes need additional support to manage peer pressure effectively. Parents can consider seeking out additional resources, such as counseling services, to help their children build the skills and resilience they need to navigate challenging social situations. Schools and community organizations may also offer programs or support groups designed to help children build positive relationships and improve their social skills. It is important to remember that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness and that many resources are available to help children thrive.

For more information, referrals, or additional resources, consider contacting Wellspring Center For Prevention offices at 732-254-3344. 

Photo by RODNAE Productions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *