Family Values & RelationshipsParentingThe Teen Years

Concerning Peer Pressure


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Concerning Peer Pressure

Whether it’s Ronaldo’s latest boots or the newest iPhone, we were taught that first impressions last and that people do tend to judge our content with what we display on the cover. If our bag says Prada or is totally anonymous, we are making more than a fashion statement. We are consciously or unconsciously attempting to tell people something. 

Mothers identify peer pressure as being one of their biggest struggles as their children go back to school. However, can this tendency to follow the crowd be an exercise for self assertion, or even an excuse to explore our own changing values?
A character flaw or a natural instinct?
According to experts, peer pressure affects kids as early as twelve years old and is an adolescent behaviour that we are expected to be weened away from by adulthood. 
But, a broader and more subtle definition of peer pressure, is peer influenced behaviour, and this will include your three year old who is more likely to finish her plate if she sees another child her age doing the same. We also watch adults wearing similar brands and driving identically priced cars and we start to wonder if peer copying is more likely a survival technique that has in a way gone astray.
A pressure to grow and learn
Being socially dependent or tribally inclined, we know that “fitting in” provides a sense of belonging. And for younger souls with “growing pains” feeling part of the group is vital for providing feelings of safety and security.
In her book Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss recognises the power of the group and its necessary effect on our emotional, social and spiritual development Our respective tribes introduce us to life “in the world.” It is a powerful feeling to be in a group of people or a family with whom you feel spiritually, emotionally and physically comfortable. Such a union empowers us and energetically enhances our personal power and our creative strength and it continues as long as we make choices consonant with the group’s.” 
Who am I?
Being different or “special” is another stop on the journey to finding out who we are. “It is difficult to be at variance with one’s tribe. We are taught to make choices that meet with tribal approval, to adopt its social graces, manner of dress, and attitudes. Symbolically, this adaptation reflects the union of individual willpower with group power. It is extremely challenging, and often very painful to evaluate our own personal beliefs and separate ourselves from those that no longer support our growth,”writes Myss.
In its first stages, individuation can take the shape of wearing our own style, going against the trend, and exhibiting more individual talents, hobbies and attitudes. However, defiance of the family may be a way to balance having to conform to the football team accepted norms. 

 One is all

The “ego-centred” transition from the original crowd following (what we just described above) does not reach its full potential unless it matures into “value” defined actions. Values are an individual’s subjective motivators that take into account the effect of our actions on a larger group of people. Here, we are not looking to be similar or different. We no longer require acceptance or derive authority from the tribe; the motivator becomes the individual’s internal valuation or spiritual belief system. 

Getting here, requires us to go through and sample the earlier stages. The support we provide our children through understanding and acceptance of their need to accommodate or individuate while simultaneously working on our neediness to feel accepted and special can help take us beyond the simple act of solving a fight over curfew. 

A map is not the territory
In this minefield that we keep crossing not just as parents but as humans with our own personal challenges, we need to think of what is it that we personally need in order to feel supported in our tendency to fall back into the need to be accepted, whether in areas where we haven’t gained enough confidence or through the transitional phases of change (moving to a new country for instance can bring out numerous insecurities from our past which puts us at a higher risk for peer pressure no matter how old we are). 
1. Determine where your child is in the balance between feeling part of the whole and being an individual and explore ways to help him or her strengthen his internal feeling of belonging or individuality. 
2. Introduce the child to different tribes, if he is not part of the football team, he can also be part of a music group outside of school or a community helping service in the school break. Relating to different groups can help the child find his individuality within them. 
3. Deal with your own fears and shame around the actions of your children (that does not fit the way you would like to be seen as a parent).
4. As I was writing this article, I got a call from a client who was concerned that her husband was being influenced by his friends, with actions ranging from staying late to acting out. I listened as she was relaying how she expects to manage him by “constant reminders” and “keeping an eye on him” and other typical peer pressure management techniques that mothers use with teenage kids. I suggested TRUST.
5. Increasing your tolerance, especially around dangerous actions may surprisingly decrease the danger that your child may be in. This is not an invitation to ignore your responsibility as a parent, but encouraging trusting conversations and managing our reactions to intentional rule breaking behaviour can encourage self regulation and confidence, which will lesson the effect of peer pressure. 
6. Displaying value directed actions in our own lives, and having conversations about them with our children. Children may not be aware of our own challenges, sharing them gives them a sense of belonging and encourages them to share. 


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Ruba Homaidi

Ruba Homaidi is a certified holistic counselor and life coach based in Switzerland. She helps people realize their goals without the need to constantly push themselves, through understanding and putting in place, living, mental and spiritual habits that support and energize them.

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