Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

How a Teen Can Manage Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is a regular and normal part of growing up, according to an article in Psychology Today. Generally, between 10 and 14 years of age, children are the most susceptible to pressure from their friends. A teen becomes more capable of withstanding the influences over the remainder of his teen years and by the time he reaches adulthood, his abilities to withstand negative influences has evened out. In those early years, your child is trying to be his own person and may rely less on the “wisdom” his parents impart to him. He might see the act of going along with the crowd as an exertion of his independence.

Teaching your son how to withstand negative peer pressure, particularly the pressure to experiment with drugs or alcohol, is further compounded by the way young people’s brains work. For instance, your son may be able to solve advanced math problems that leave you scratching your head in a state of total confusion. He may be able to remember detailed plays for his upcoming football game, and he may be able to recite passages from the Gettysburg Address that you never even knew existed. These are some of the things he is learning every day in school, but what about common sense? What about the ability to understand that cutting class can lead to disciplinary referrals that have a real impact on whether he is accepted to the college of his choice when he graduates? What about the boy who understands on a conscious level that his behavior can have ramifications on his future, but who still makes the decision to engage in risky behaviors, like drug abuse?

It doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it? According to information provided by the University of Rochester Medical Center, it makes perfect sense if you understand how the teen brain actually works. The truth is that the parts of the brain that are responsible for good decision-making are not fully formed until your child is no longer a child. These parts of the brain develop fully around the age of 25. The part of the brain that helps your son remember facts for school develops much earlier.

3 Important Tips to Help Your Teen Manage Peer Pressure

  • Set a good example. You are still an important influence in your teen son’s life, even if it seems as though he would rather do anything other than learning from his parents. Showing your child, rather than telling him, that good decisions lead to good rewards can be a very powerful teaching tool.
  • Instill a good sense of self. According to, one of the reasons children fall prey to pressure is because they want to be liked. Children who have a strong sense of self may be less likely to succumb to the will of others and have more ability to say “no.”
  • Be honest with your teen about how the world works. Girls are not the only children who can be negatively influenced by the media. Boys can be influenced by media pressure; for example, they may feel pressure to abuse steroids in an effort to be more attractive to the opposite sex. To avoid the influence of peer pressure to that end, explain to your child how the media influences the images they produce through photo manipulation, as well as the unhealthy ramifications of not living a clean and healthy lifestyle.

Peer Pressure Does Not Have to Be Negative

Ultimately, peer pressure can work in both positive and negative ways. For instance, one study has found that a benefit of group therapy in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction centers on the concept of peer pressure. By participating in group activities and therapy sessions, the members of the group can use peer pressure to influence an individual in the group who may be at risk for relapse in the same way a teen’s friends might have influenced him to experiment with drug abuse.

If you’d like more information on how to help your teenage son avoid pressure to use drugs or alcohol, please contact us today.