Thursday, June 14, 2012

Peer Pressure and Your Teen

I hear many times that parents say that their teen is hanging with a negative peer group, however you have to remember, it is your teenager that is choosing to be with them.

There is no denying how awkward the teenage years are. Surging hormones, increasing responsibility, and feeling a lack of control over their lives have long caused stress among teens. Parents might struggle to find sympathy when their teenager moans how hard their life is but it is true more than ever for today's teens. A parent's job is to help guide their child through this time, hopefully having them emerge from the chrysalis as a competent adult.

One problem teens struggle to deal with is pressure. Non-stop access to social media has made it difficult for them to learn to switch off. As their parent, you can help them develop the skills they need to manage pressure in a positive way, without turning to damaging alternatives like alcohol or drugs.

1. Switching Off

Put your teen in an environment where there are no distractions like television, computers or phones. A weekend's camping, or even a short hike, can help them to learn that there won't be a disaster if they don't reply to that text straight away. Living in a world where immediate responses are possible, doesn't mean they are always necessary. Time away will help your teen develop confidence in the knowledge that they can step back now and then, without losing social status.

2. Taking Control

So many aspects of a teen's life are outside of their control. They may be nearly adults, but they are still dependent on their parents for basic needs. It is important that they still have restrictions and guidelines around their activities - most teens have not yet developed the emotional maturity to always act in their best interests. Work with your teen to help them learn to make the right decisions. Just as you would have done when they were toddlers, give them several suitable options and let them choose, such as about curfew punishments. Give them a safe environment for them to feel the repercussions of being irresponsible. If you always make the right decision for them, they won't learn to make decisions for themselves.

3. Keeping Healthy

Teaching your teens the benefits of eating well and being active will benefit them all their lives. A good diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep all help prevent depression and mood swings. Likewise, food stuffed with additives and chemicals, and poor sleeping habits can exacerbate a bad mood. Get your teen involved with planning and cooking family meals. Encourage them to be active by walking to school if it is close enough, and not taking the car or bus everywhere. For some teens, just being outside is a step in the right direction.

4. Building Confidence

Pressure usually comes from the fear of failure. Help your teen build their confidence so that they not only learn to trust themselves and their ability; they learn that it is ok to make mistakes. Encourage them to try new things. Show them by example that the learning process doesn't stop once you leave school. Don't hide your own mistakes, but talk to them about what you have tried and what you have learned. In a world of instant gratification, it may seem to them success should be immediate too. Help them see alternative ways of achieving their goals.

The teenage years are the last phase of intensive parenting before your child heads into the world as an adult. Pressure in life is inevitable, but giving your teen the tools to manage it will help them cope without feeling overwhelmed.

Special contributor: Kirsty Smith is a parent of 3 teenage boys. She is an experienced writer and blogger, covering a wide range of subjects including food, parenting, travel, and education. She also contributes to Degree Jungle a resource for students.


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