Tips to help your teen overcome peer pressure
By Karuana Mwai
Peer pressure is a common challenge that many teenagers face. It can affect their choices, behaviors, self-esteem and healthy development in various aspects of life, such as relationships, health, education, and social media.
Sometimes, peer pressure can have positive effects, such as encouraging teens to try new things, develop new skills, or join a club or team. However, peer pressure can also have negative effects, such as exposing teens to risky or harmful situations, lowering their self esteem, or making them feel isolated or rejected.
In this article, we explore some of the top peer pressure scenarios that teens in Kenya face and how parents can help them cope without being overbearing or judgemental.
First kiss, boyfriends/girlfriends, sex
One of the most common peer pressure situations that teens face is related to their romantic and sexual lives. Teens may feel pressured to have their first kiss, date someone, or engage in sexual activities before they are ready or willing.
They may also receive misinformation or myths about contraception, HIV, STIs, or abortion care from their peers, which can put them at risk of unwanted pregnancies or infections. According to UNICEF, Kenya has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies in the world with 18% of girls aged 15 to 19 being mothers or pregnant with their first child. Moreover, young people aged 15 to 24 account for 35% of new HIV infections in Kenya.
Therefore, it is crucial for parents to provide accurate and comprehensive information about sexual and reproductive health to their teens and encourage them to make informed and responsible choices. To further help your teen deal with this type of peer pressure, you can:
- Have open and honest conversations about sex and relationships. Don’t shy away from discussing the risks, responsibilities, and consequences of sexual activity. Also, emphasize the importance of consent, respect, and boundaries in any relationship.
- Encourage your teen to think about their own values and goals. Help them understand that they have the right to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable or goes against their beliefs. Remind them that they don’t have to do anything just to fit in or please someone else.
- Be supportive and non-judgmental. Listen to your teen’s feelings and concerns without criticizing or lecturing them. Let them know that you love them unconditionally and that you are always there for them.
Drugs and partying
Teens may be curious about drugs and alcohol, or they may feel pressured to smoke cigarettes, or use other substances that their peers claim are fun, cool, or normal.
They may also feel pressured to attend parties or events where drugs and alcohol are present or where they may encounter violence or harassment.
These situations can expose teens to physical and mental health problems, legal troubles, academic difficulties, or addiction.
Therefore, it is important for parents to educate their teens about the dangers and consequences of substance abuse and to help them develop healthy coping skills. To help your teen resist this kind of peer pressure, you can:
- Educate your teen about the effects and dangers of drugs and alcohol. Explain how they can impair their judgment, memory, and coordination, and how they can lead to addiction, overdose, or legal trouble.
- Set clear rules and expectations for your teen. Let them know what you consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and what the consequences will be if they break the rules. Also, establish a curfew and check-in system for when they go out with friends.
- Provide alternatives and incentives for your teen. Encourage your teen to pursue hobbies, sports, or clubs that interest them and keep them busy. Also, reward your teen for making good choices and staying away from drugs and alcohol.
- Teach your teen how to say no to drugs and alcohol in a polite but firm way. Help them practice different scenarios and responses, such as ‘No, thanks, I don’t drink,’ ‘I have to study for a test tomorrow,’ or ‘I have other plans.’ Suggest alternative activities that they can do with their friends, such as sports, music, or hobbies.
- Seek professional help if you suspect that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, or if they show signs of addiction, such as withdrawal symptoms, mood swings, changes in appetite, sleep, or appearance, or loss of interest in school or hobbies. Contact NACADA or a local health center for advice and support. Do not blame yourself or your teen, but focus on finding solutions and recovery.
Social media vs reality
Teens may spend a lot of time on social media platforms like TikTok or Instagram, where they can create content, follow trends, and interact with others. However, social media can also expose them to cyberbullying, explicit content, body shaming, or unrealistic standards of beauty or success.
Social media can also have a negative impact on teens by creating unrealistic expectations of a lavish and easy life. Many teens are influenced by the images and videos of people who seem to have a glamorous and effortless lifestyle on social media, and they may feel pressured to imitate them or fit in with them. This can affect their decisions and actions in ways that are not authentic or healthy.
To help your teen deal with this kind of peer pressure, you can:
- Limit your teen’s screen time and monitor their online activity.
- Set boundaries on how much and when your teen can use social media.
- Also, check their privacy settings and their posts and comments.
- Educate your teen about the dangers and responsibilities of social media. Explain to them the potential consequences of sharing personal information, photos, or videos online and how to avoid/handle child predators, unwanted contacts or invitations. Remind them that they should never meet someone they met online without your permission and supervision.
- Also, teach them how to deal with cyberbullying or harassment by blocking, reporting, or ignoring the offenders.
- Help your teen develop a healthy and realistic perspective on social media.
- Remind them that social media is not a reflection of reality and that people often edit or filter their images or videos.
- Also, remind them that their worth is not based on their likes or followers but on their character and actions.
Peer pressure is a reality that many teens in Kenya face every day. It can have both positive and negative impacts on their lives, depending on how they respond to it. As parents, we have a key role to play in helping our teens cope with peer pressure and make wise decisions.
We can do this by providing them with accurate information, guidance, and support; by creating a safe and supportive environment for them to communicate with us; and by modeling positive behaviors and values for them to emulate. By doing so, we can help our teens grow into confident, healthy, and responsible adults.
Over to you, share other tips on how you are helping your teen deal with peer pressure.