5 Practical Ways to Help Your Child Handle Peer Pressure

Wake Christian Academy middle school boy on swings

When parents hear the term “peer pressure,” their minds often go to the teenage years, but it’s important to recognize how children of all ages can be influenced by those around them.

Equally noteworthy — not all peer pressure is harmful. Positive peer pressure often motivates children to improve their behavior, adopt beneficial habits, and pursue personal growth. 

This is why choosing a school is so important to you! You understand that the environment your child is immersed in and the people they are surrounded by will shape their choices and beliefs.

Looking for a private school with a positive culture?

No matter what school your family chooses, every student will inevitably face peer pressure that prompts them to conform to the expectations of others. You want your child to be strong in their values and unwavering in their convictions. Consider these tips and strategies that will empower your child to make positive, independent choices from preschool to high school.

Build your child’s self esteem.

Confident children are significantly less likely to give in to peer pressure or engage in risky behaviors. Start building your child’s confidence early by emphasizing their strengths and identity in Christ. 

This can be as simple as words of affirmation. 

  • “I love how you notice when others are sad or hurting and encourage them!”
  • “You’re very good at math! I wonder where that will take you in the future?”
  • “I noticed the self-control you showed today, and I’m proud of you!” 

Or, it could look like nurturing their individuality through specific activities.

  • A special paint night at a local studio for your budding artist. 
  • Piano or guitar lessons for your music lover. 
  • Pursuing family volunteerism or mission trip opportunities. 

Investing in your child’s interests and nurturing their unique gifts will build their confidence and inspire them to pursue their best, even in the face of peer pressure.

Model standing up for your beliefs.

Why is it so difficult for children to resist peer pressure? Often, they simply haven’t seen what it looks like to be assertive in the face of temptation. 

Communication skills develop over time, but it can be extremely helpful for children and teens to see their parents and role models standing up for their beliefs.

  • If you volunteer at church every Sunday but get invited to a different activity, demonstrate graciously saying no, and explain your prior commitment.  
  • If your child wonders why another family has certain material items or gets to do this or that, explain candidly what you prioritize instead, and why. 
  • If there is a bad habit you want to break, share with your child what you will be doing to improve, and how even grown-ups face pressure to engage in behaviors that go against their values.

This helps children see that they are not the only ones who need accountability, and that setting boundaries and saying no is part of a healthy, happy life. 

Encourage numerous social circles.

The primary reason children give in to peer pressure is because they are worried about losing a friend or being ostracized socially. Children who have numerous friends and a wide range of social circles more easily resist peer pressure from a single friend or friend group. 

  • If you notice a clique forming, encourage your child to stand up against exclusivity and reach out to others in their class. 
  • Facilitate involvement in church groups, youth sports, or neighborhood play dates.
  • Connect with like-minded parents to help nurture new connections and foster friendships based on shared beliefs. 

When children don’t feel at risk of losing their only friend or only circle of friends, they are more empowered to make their own decisions. 

Establish open communication. 

The best way to foster open communication, especially as your child heads into the middle or high school years, is to avoid overreacting. 

If your child shares a situation with you in which they are facing peer pressure, and you react strongly, they may avoid coming to you again in the future. What’s worse, there may be a missed opportunity to discuss potential consequences and help your child navigate the issue at hand. 

Avoid demanding that your child end the friendship(s) wherein the peer pressure is occurring or putting your frustration or worry on display. Instead, ask thoughtful questions: 

  • “Why do you think Sam feels the need to call others names? Do you think he feels bad about himself and could use some encouragement?”
  • “Hmm, I wonder if Sara knows that taking something from a store without paying is a crime that some people even go to jail for?”
  • “I’ll bet Jackson doesn’t realize that vaping causes painful, lifelong health issues. Maybe we could research some of them together and you could share with him?”

By responding in a calm, objective tone, you can inspire your child to think critically and see the consequences of a negative behavior, without demanding they not participate or end a friendship.

*If your child is facing peer pressure that seems extreme, or is affecting them physically, socially, or emotionally, be sure to connect with your child’s teachers and/or school administrators immediately.

Looking for a private, Christian school where your child can develop positive friendships?

We encourage you to schedule a tour at Wake Christian Academy and see for yourself how we prioritize a safe, Christ-centered environment where students can flourish socially as they discover their academic potential.

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