Adolescence is a time during which teens learn more about themselves through personal experiences and interactions with peers. Teens are influenced by peers both directly and indirectly, says the website Kids Health. Positive peer interaction influences teens to excel at sports, academics and in social circles, while negative peer pressure can lead to poor behavioral choices. Parents can work with teens to empower them to make wise choices, even in the face of negative peer pressure.
Drugs and Alcohol
As teenagers engage in more independent decision-making, the issue of drug and alcohol use is a major concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that people between the ages of 12 and 21 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports that in 2010, 10 percent of young people between 12 and 17 were current illicit drug users. Teens are often pressured by their peers to drink and do drugs, but parents can help their teens make wise choices by opening a dialogue about the risks of teen drinking and drug use. Talk to them frankly about consequences such as being arrested for underage drinking and an increased risk of sexual assault or early death, advises advocates with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Through their own behavior, a teen's close friends may indirectly influence a decision about whether to engage in sexual activity through their own behavior, or a teen could be pressured by boyfriend or girlfriend. HealthyChildren.org, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests that parents refrain from highlighting the negative consequences associated with engaging in sexual behavior. Instead, focus on the benefits of delaying sexual activity -- such as a decreased risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases -- until they are older. While teens will ultimately make their own choices, parents can arm them with plenty of information so they can make an informed choice.
Cutting Class and Truancy
It's common for teens to be pressured by their peers to cut classes or ditch school altogether. Truancy is a public concern, says the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, with poor school attendance being closely associated with social isolation, educational failure and delinquent activity. It's important for parents to monitor their teen's friends, and warn against associating with peers who don't value education and who have multiple, unexcused school absences. Parents can also impress upon their teens how important education is to their personal and professional success later in life.
Kids Health notes that teens often succumb to pressure by their peers to steal or shoplift so that they can fit in and feel accepted. Theft can have serious consequences, such as jail time, a criminal record, having to pay fines for stolen items and mandated community service. It's important that parents educate their teen's about the consequences associated with stealing. Getting to know your teen's friends will keep you informed and give you valuable insight so you can help your teen make wise choices about his peers.