Why does my teen choose the wrong peers? Acceptance can be everything to a teenager. Peer pressure can lead your teen in either a good direction or in some cases, making very poor choices.
For example if your teen’s good friend suggests favorite TV shows, movies or music – it can be considered positive peer influence. However sometimes your child starts gravitating to a less than desirable peer friend/group that could lead them to try drugs or skip school. This is negative peer pressure.
All of us want our teenager to have that good friend that encourages our child to get their homework done, study hard, get good grades, search for a summer job, save money, are respectful to adults and overall disapprove of illegal or risky behavior.
When you realize your teen has chosen a new questionable friend, it can be very concerning. Some teenagers might choose to try things they normally wouldn’t be interested in, like smoking or behaving in antisocial ways or not attending school.
Signs your teen is struggling with negative peer pressure
If you notice the following behavioral changes in your teen, it could mean they are struggling with keeping up with a new peer group.
- low moods, tearfulness or feelings of hopelessness
- aggression or antisocial behavior that’s not usual for your child
- sudden changes in behavior, often for no obvious reason
- trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking early
- loss of appetite or over-eating
- reluctance to go to school
- withdrawal from activities your child used to like
- statements about wanting to give up, or life not being worth living.
Helping your teen manage peer pressure
Coping well with peer influence is about getting the balance right between being yourself and fitting in with your group.
-Building self-confidence. Confidence can help teenagers resist negative peer influence. That’s because confident teenagers can make safe, informed decisions and avoid people and situations that aren’t right for them. You can build your teen’s confidence by encouraging them to try new things that give them a chance of success, and to keep trying even when things are hard.
-Build self-compassion. Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and treating yourself with the same warmth, care and understanding you’d give to someone you care about. When teenagers have self-compassion, it can help them handle any stress and anxiety related to peer influence.
-Keep the lines of communication open. You can do this by staying connected to your child. This helps your child feel they can come to you to talk if they’re feeling pressured to do something they’re uncomfortable with.
-Suggest ways to say no. Your child might need to have some face-saving ways to say no if they’re feeling influenced to do something they don’t want to do. For example, friends might be encouraging your child to try smoking pot. Rather than simply saying ‘No, thanks’, your child could say something like, ‘No, it makes my asthma worse’, or ‘No, I don’t like the way it makes me smell’.
-Give teenagers a way out. If your teen feels they’re in a risky situation, it might help if they can text or phone you for back-up. You and your teen could agree on a coded message for those times when your child doesn’t want to feel embarrassed in front of friends. For example, they could say that they’re checking on a sick grandparent, but you’ll know that it really means they need your help.
If your child does call you, it’s important to focus on your child’s positive choice to ask you for help, rather than on the risky situation your child is in. Your child is more likely to ask for help if they know they won’t get into trouble.
-Encourage a wide social network. If your teen has the chance to develop friendships from many sources, including sports, family activities or clubs, it will mean they’ve got plenty of options and sources of support if a friendship goes wrong.
Encouraging your teen to have friends over and giving them space in your home can help you get to know your child’s friends. This also gives you the chance to check on whether negative peer pressure and influence is an issue for your child.
If you’re worried your teen’s friends are a negative influence, being critical of them might push your child into seeing them behind your back. If your child thinks you don’t approve of their friends, they might even want to see more of them. So it’s important to talk and listen without judging, and gently help your child see the influence their peers are having.
This might mean talking with your child about behavior you don’t like rather than the people you don’t like. For example, you might say, ‘When you’re with your friends, you often get into fights’. This can be better than saying, ‘You need to find new friends’.
It can help to compromise with your child. For example, letting your child wear certain clothes or have their hair cut in a particular way can help them feel connected to their peers, even if you’re not keen on blue hair or ripped jeans. Letting your child have some independence can reduce the chance of more risky choices.
If you are struggling with a teen that is hanging with the wrong crowd, engaging in risky behavior — you have exhausted your local resources and still need teen help, contact us to learn how residential treatment might be able to assist your family.