Underage drinking and drug-taking continue to be a problem in the UK. No matter how vocal and active you are with your children regarding the dangers of chemical substances, you cannot guarantee that they will not experiment.
One of the biggest issues that parents face is the fact that peer pressure plays a huge role in determining whether their children will try alcohol or drugs.
What is Peer Pressure?
A peer is someone of equal standing, so when it comes to teenagers, their peers are usually their friends or other teenagers of similar age and status. Teenagers are often exposed to alcohol and drugs when they reach high school, and even if they do not want to try these substances, they may do so in order to please their peers.
It is quite common for groups of teenagers to make fun of, or laugh at, others who do not want to drink or take drugs. With social media playing a pivotal role in the lives of teenagers these days, it can be easy for them to be pressured into doing something they do not really want to. It can be very difficult for teenagers to say no to their peers because they are worried they may be left out or bullied if they do.
Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons young people try alcohol and drugs for the first time. In fact, a recent study found that young children are five times more likely to try alcohol if their friends have already done so. There is a desire to fit in that will cause youngsters to do things they would prefer not to.
Studies have also shown that the younger a person begins abusing substances such as drugs and alcohol, the greater the chance of this individual developing an addiction in later life. While not every teenager who tries drugs and alcohol will develop an addiction, for some these substances can become a powerful force that threatens to derail their lives. It is important that those who develop addictive behaviours get the help they need as soon as possible.
Positive Peer Pressure
Just as peer pressure can be used for negative reasons, it can also be used as a positive force in terms of addiction recovery. If a teenager is placed within a recovery programme with his or her peers, he or she will benefit from encouragement from others in terms of overcoming his/her addiction. There are a number of teenage addiction clinics around the UK where peer pressure is used in a positive manner to help youngsters motivate and inspire each other to get better.
Dealing with Negative Peer Pressure
If you are worried about negative peer pressure and do not want your child to succumb to it, there are a number of things you can do to be proactive. It is important to stay vocal about the dangers of substance abuse and try to encourage your child to spend time with friends who you believe are not interested in experimenting with alcohol or drugs.
Encourage your child to spend time at your home with his or her friends and to engage in healthy activities such as sport and dancing. Encourage healthy living and advise your child about nutrition; he or she is less likely to want to try toxic substances if he/she has a genuine interest in being healthy.
Above all, make sure your child knows that he or she can come to you to talk about worries or issues they may be having with their peers. Do not be judgemental and try to stay calm. Make sure your child knows that you will offer support and advice without making any situation worse. Remember that teenagers worry greatly about what others think of them and they will only come to you if they know they can trust you.