Recent research confirms that often the young will “do anything” to please peers—ignoring dire, even tragic, consequences. Previously this column has suggested alternative ways for youngsters to get used to saying no to peers—for example role-play. Practicing for specific situations such as substance abuse, inappropriate sex, and reckless driving can help children and teens to cope with worrisome situations. While practicing, roles may be reversed to expand awareness. During these role-playing sessions, teach them the sandwich method to say no: a positive comment, then a rationale for the “no,” and ending with another positive comment.
In addition to this good advice about responding to peer pressure, children can also be taught to avoid peer pressure situations when possible. Rather than getting to the “no” situation, they can think ahead. This includes sizing up people and situations by observing body language, dress, and verbalizations. If you use public transportation and have ever moved away from someone, you probably practiced this skill. Of course, we only have clues and may want to remain open to further evidence in case we have misjudged someone. Some people are better at this than others, but everyone can improve.
Most parents are very careful when it comes to peer contacts and maintaining the delicate balance between positive and negative influences. These tips can help maintain that balance.
Ron (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is tutoring and mentoring in the West Village.