Ah, peer pressure — the age-old force that has pushed many a kid into the dangerous waters of alcohol and drugs. Whether they’re 13 or 30, social pressure can often feel overwhelming, but with the right tools and mindset, you can help your child approach any situation with confidence.
Here are four ways teens can be prepared to stay cool under pressure. Share these with your child so they can feel comfortable and stay sober.
Give a specific excuse
Although it's catchy, "Just say no" is not always the most effective response to an offer for alcohol or drugs. They psychology of persuasion teaches that, when people are offered a specific reason for a request (or, in this case, a denial), they are more likely to accept it. In other words, instead of just saying "no,” explain specifically why you choose not to partake.
For example, you could say, "No, thanks, I have a game tomorrow, and I need to be in top shape to play," or "Thanks, but not tonight. I need to get up early tomorrow to study for a quiz."
Keep a nonalcoholic drink with you
If you find yourself in a situation where alcohol is being served, preempt an offer for a drink by grabbing a soda or other nonalcoholic beverage to keep in your hand. That way, if your friends offer you a beer, you can show them you're already covered. If people see you holding a drink, they're less likely to pressure you.
If a party doesn't have nonalcoholic drinks, grab one of the plastic red cups (or whatever is being used) and fill it with water from the kitchen or bathroom faucet.
Get the facts straight
When you're in the middle of adolescence, the old adage "everyone is doing it" can feel particularly true. However, data shows alcohol and drug use may not be quite as prevalent as many think. One study found that, in 2010, only 27 percent of students had gotten drunk in the past year, and only 34 percent had ever used drugs.
While drugs and alcohol are certainly accessible, the majority of teens aren't partaking. Understanding the true lay of the land gives you perspective, if you feel pressured by your peers.
Blame your parents
If all else fails, don't be afraid to lean on your parents. They'll be happy to take the heat for your "goody two-shoes" ways. Next time your peers try to pressure you into something you don't feel comfortable with, tell them your parents will ground you — or better yet, tell them your parents are on their way to pick you up. No need to stay in a situation in which you don’t feel safe.
Peer pressure can be a real and overwhelming experience but, by preparing yourself ahead of time with a plan, you can navigate the tricky waters of the teen years without too many bumps or bruises.
If you notice signs of alcohol abuse in your teen, you don't have to deal with them alone. Call Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority crisis hotline 24/7 at 800-241-4949 or visit dwmha.com for more information on prevention, treatment and recovery services.
Here to talk. Here to help.