Peer pressure is a powerful influence in the life of every child and has the potential to significantly impact a child’s attitudes and behaviors. As parents, we long to have our children learn how to be more independent and make autonomous decisions. While most parents want their children to appreciate their unique qualities, individuality, and to be able to think for themselves, the reality is that most children want to be just like their friends.
A key role for parents is coaching and mentoring our children. As we encourage our kids to become their own person, we are often met with resistance along the way. Fortunately, we know that once they learn to use and trust their Internal Guidance System (IGS), we can feel confident in our kids’ ability to handle peer pressure as they mature into teens and adults.
When children learn how to access their internal guidance system, they will instinctively check in with who they truly are and how they are really feeling—even when friends may be trying to lead them in a different direction.
One challenging scenario is when your child presents you with “all-the-other-kids-are–doing–it” argument. This is often a signal that, although they know they should be tuning into their internal guidance system, they feel conflicted, and are struggling with listening and following their IGS. When this situation arises, you can help support and guide your child in the direction of his true self so he does not feel obligated to cave in to peer pressure.
Here are some important supportive messages you can offer to your child:
- Remind him to speak his own truth. Your child has the right to, and should express, those things that feel good and right for him.
- Coach your child to take notice of how he feels while in the presence of, and talking with, friends.
- Teach your child to notice the difference between the words he is saying and how he feels after saying those words.
- Suggest your child observe his friends, be clear about what they are doing, and check with his IGS to determine what he wants to do, and accept that their paths may be different.
- Finally, he should notice how he is feeling when thinking about an action his friends are engaging in, or proposing to take. Does it make him feel happy, sad, scared?
Teaching our children early in life how to access and trust their Internal Guidance System gives them time to practice and develop the skill, and confidence to act on their IGS. This allows them to integrate these practices into their lives, so that by the time that they reach high school, they can rely on their IGS and more easily deal with peer pressure.