As teenagers start exploring the world around them, their contact base will expand beyond their immediate circle of family, friends, and relatives to include another important section known as peer groups.
Peer groups enjoy a certain degree of acceptability based on shared similarities such as gender, community, age, and activity, which makes them a substantially influential group.
If the influence of peer groups is positive, it will lead to positive outcomes. However, if the influence is negative such as encouraging addictions, or substance abuse, or other forms of risky behavior, the implications can be dangerous for your teenager.
Identifying “Peer Groups” in Your Teen’s Life
As a parent it is important you are aware of the kind of ideas and influences your teen is being exposed to on a day-to-day basis. Which is why it is important you identify the peer groups that can influence your teen.
Peers or peer groups are a set of individuals your teen admires or identifies with in some way. These peers or peer groups can be from different places such as school, or at an after-school club or activity, from the neighborhood, or even via social platforms and online forums.
Why do Teens Feel Pressure to “Fit In”?
The need to “fit-in” or be one amongst a crowd can drive teens to succumb to peer pressure. So, a teen who wants the approval of these peer groups will feel pressured to mimic their behaviors and actions.
Bullying could also be a major reason for teens to succumb to peer pressure. In both instances, it is the pressure of conforming to a certain group or expectation which can lead to behavioral changes among teenagers.
Important Signs of Peer Pressure
Teenagers who enjoy healthy and positive relations with their friends and family, are better positioned to deal with peer pressure.
However, teens who are isolated or those who don’t have the buffer of family and friends, tend to be more vulnerable to peer pressure. If your teen is facing peer pressure, there are several signs which will indicate the same. You should be worried if your teen displays one or more of the following:
- Is irritable or shows signs of depression.
- Indulges in substance abuse and other forms of addiction (gaming, smoking, drugs, and alcohol).
- Starts displaying behavioral changes that are out of character.
- Displays sudden change in belief and attitude.
- Is overly worried about not “fitting-in.”
- Is easily influenced to think or act a certain way regardless of the dangers or risks involved.
- Is easily influenced by “friends” – and as parents, these “friends” make you feel anxious or concerned.
- Shows little or no interest in school and studies.
If you find it difficult to communicate with your child, are unable to help them deal with peer pressure, or find the above symptoms are getting worse, it is best to seek professional help.
Positive Impact of Peer Pressure on Your Teen
While peer pressure generally carries a negative connotation, this is not the case every time. So, while one set of people might have a negative influence on your teen, another set of people from the same age group or gender, can have a positive influence. As parents, it is easy to get overprotective of your child.
However, if you notice positive changes in your child after they start interacting or associating with a certain peer group, it is important to appreciate and encourage these interactions.
If you notice your teen is more confident, or is pursuing healthy interests and habits, or enjoys a greater sense of belonging which is having an overall positive impact on their thinking and decision making — encourage them!
Don’t be suspicious of every action; getting a tattoo does not necessarily mean your teen is associating with drug addicts or has fallen into bad company. Perhaps it is simply a sign of artistic expression.
Communicate with your teen and support their decisions. If you are against a particular action or idea, explain your reasons for feeling the way you do. Above all, support them so they know they can always depend on you regardless of what transpires in the outside world.
Knowing When to Ask for Help
If your teen enjoys a healthy relationship with their peers, you have nothing to worry about. The only time you should be concerned is when peer pressure starts having a negative impact on your teenager’s life and the choices they make. If you are unable to help, then seeking professional help is the best way forward.
How Doorways Can Help Your Teen
Here at Doorways, we are aware of the trials and pressures teenagers face in their growing years. We also know that each teen has their own way of dealing with these pressures – some find their own path, others need a little help.
Our role as behavioral therapists and professional counselors is to help teens and their families deal with peer pressure in a positive and constructive way and build confidence for all parties involved.