Parents can’t stop everything. A teenager’s desire to fit in with the cool crowd, however they must, can outweigh just about everything else going on in his or her head. That’s a big problem, because it doesn’t take much to send a vulnerable teen into a vicious drug abuse cycle–sometimes, it’s just one puff or sip. The best way to prevent a teen from falling for peer pressure is to make them aware of the phenomenon itself. Teach them to say NO.
Employ Positive Influences
No matter how straight you aim your teenager, he or she will surely waver at some point; it’s teenage nature. You can’t stop negative influences from happening, but you what you can do is bog those influences down with good ones. After-school sports, volunteer programs, and religious associations are all great ways to keep your teen feeling productive and important. Furthermore, when teens are engaged in these activities rather than parties, they develop the best kind of friendships: healthy, sober ones.
All teens need at least a few positive adult figures in their life in addition to their own parents. A therapist, an uncle, a big brother or sister—anyone who cares for and loves them.
Drugs Aren’t Cool
Of course we must educate our teens on the physiological dangers of drugs, but that’s not enough. Most teens will knowingly risk the dangers if they feel the drugs really help them belong. In fact, much of the time, that’s the whole point: rebellion. Here’s the thing: there are better outlets for rebellious feelings than withdrawing to a life that is shallow, empty, and ultimately self-destructive. Parents know this, but a lot of teenagers don’t view drug use that way in the first place. They become transfixed by the concepts of popularity, rebellion, and independence. Help your teen understand that choosing what is right—what is safer—is always better, and ultimately more rewarding, than caving to peer pressure.
Practice Saying “No” in Certain Scenarios
In a teen’s head, specifics matter, and what matters in their head matters for real when it comes to their recovery. Try your best to uncover where the influence really lies, or to get your teen to open up to someone else about it. If you can tell someone or something is influencing your teen to use, but you can’t get them to open up about what it is, consider getting the teen into contact with someone more equipped, like a school counselor or a therapist.
A neat little trick: Teach your teen to act confident about their position, whether they feel confident or not, right off the bat. Negatively influential peers are like predators: they pounce at the hint of weakness, but back off at the sight of a strong opponent. Instilling confidence in your kids is the #1 way to prepare them to face life’s pressures and temptations.
If you believe your teen is already on a destructive, drug-fueled path, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help.