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SAFE HARBOR #5: Friend or Foe?

Help your child deal with the need for peer acceptance:

  • Maintain strong bonds with your child.
  • Help your child to deal with the need to fit in.
  • Teach your child to make independent choices.
  • Help your child find creative ways to say no to alcohol.

Why is it important for parents to help their children deal with the need for peer acceptance?

Parents can help their children make the right choices about fitting in and being with peers.

Parents can help their children become confident about their own judgment and choices.

Parents can teach skills for resisting negative peer pressure.

Parents can teach children the skills that will help them comfortably handle social situations.

Maintain strong bonds with your child. As your child grows up and becomes more independent, you have to work harder to maintain the relationship you have built since childhood. Strong bonds to the family help the child stay balanced while forming increasingly strong bonds with peers. Children who do not receive love and understanding at home may seek it out in peers and may be more open to negative peer influence. Children also look first to home, not to peers, for information on sensitive subjects. In fact, the strongest motivation to refuse offers of alcohol is that they know their parents disapprove and would be disappointed.

Help your child to deal with the need to fit in. Most children do not feel strong pressure from their peers to use alcohol. The pressure comes from wanting to be accepted, to belong, and to be noticed. This is why some children begin drinking alcohol. Other children sometimes turn to alcohol to overcome anxiety, change their personality, gain courage to talk to others, and fit in with a group they want to join. Make sure your child is aware of and resists these negative motivations.

Teach your child to make independent choices. Children need to learn how to stand up for their beliefs and values, how to assert opinions, and how to resist pressure from others. Tell your child to try to make healthy decisions regardless of what others might think or say. Each time children succeed in standing up for themselves, their self-confidence increases and they can more easily resist negative pressure.

Help your child find creative ways to refuse alcohol. Have your child practice different ways of saying no and getting out of situations where they feel uncomfortable. Having a strong sense of doing what is right according to your family values can help your child successfully withstand peer pressure to drink.

When your child lacks social skills ...

All children want to be accepted by their peers, but sometimes they are their own worst enemies. Their awkward behavior and lack of grace can make it hard for them to meet people, make friends, and be comfortable in groups. Here is how you can help your child practice social skills:

  • Create a supportive and loving atmosphere at home, where your child feels comfortable talking and interacting with others;
  • Talk with your child about any concerns or problems he or she is having in social settings;
  • Set up situations where your child gets to practice meeting and greeting people;
  • Teach your child some ways to get into and out of conversations; and
  • Be aware that your own social skills are a model to your child.