Peer pressure – learning to say no!

It’ s natural and healthy to have friends you can rely on. Having fun together, helping each other, introducing each other to new things, books, music, sports or any other interest you may have. But sometimes friends can push us into doing something we know and feel is wrong. This is called negative peer pressure and it’s something everyone, even adults, deal with. Almost all children find themselves under peer pressure, not knowing what to do or what is the right choice – say no and risk being ridiculed by others, or give in to peer pressure and get into serious trouble with long-term consequences.

Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean they are right. It’s tough to be the only one who says “no” to peer pressure, but it’s something every person has to learn sooner or later.  And you can do it! As you get older, you will see that knowing how to say “no” to peer pressure  is one of most useful skills you can develop to protect yourself. Making your own decisions and following them will save you a lot of trouble throughout your life. If there are students who also resist peer pressure and choose their own good judgment rather than someone else’s, you can join them. It’s helpful to have a friend with whom to share your thoughts on wrong or right.

If you are not sure you should do something your friends are encouraging you to do, stop and take time to think about it:

Listen to what your body is saying. Most children know the difference between good and bad. If you feel uncomfortable, shaky, if your heart beats faster, if you are sweating, or your head feels warm or cold, your body may be telling you something wrong is happening. Trust yourself! These are signs you should at least stop and seriously think before you act.

Think about the risks. Will you be safe? Is it illegal? Will you hurt someone or make them feel bad? Some mistakes are not easy to correct, even with time. Often, there are risks we are not even aware of. Things easily become complicated and wrong. We cannot predict outcomes or how severe they may be.

Think about the consequences. Will it get you into trouble with authorities? Imagine how you’ll deal with that – how does it make you feel? What will your parents say? Will they ever be able to trust you again? Will their attitude towards you change when they find out?  How will that change reflect on you? Remember, you must live with consequences, not your friends! Potential conflict with your parents is needless, especially if you already know better – know you shouldn’t be doing it?

Real friends will respect your decisions once you have expressed them. If you are still under peer pressure even after you said “no”, sometimes the best way to avoid negative peer pressure is to walk away. You can pretend you haven’t heard them, or make an excuse why you must leave. Sometimes you can make a joke, i.e. “my parents would kill me”, leave it at that and just walk away. In situations where you feel you might be bullied, you can say “I’ll think about it” rather than “No”, then walk away and get help. It’s ok to seek help – talk to your parents, teachers, or school psychologist to get advice and helpful information about dealing with peer pressure.

Choose your friends wisely. Surround yourself with good and kind friends, positive role models, who will give you good advice, accept you as you are, support your choices, and encourage you to build self-esteem. When you are sure of yourself and have a good self image, you will be less likely to give in when someone pressures you to change your behavior for the worse. Don’t feel bad for standing up for your beliefs and saying “No” to your peers. Know you are a better person for resisting something dangerous, illegal, or dishonest. One day you will be thankful you chose right over wrong!

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