6 Ways to Help Your Teen Manage Peer Pressure

Reviewed by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Hayley Vaughan Smith, Person Centred Counsellor and The Ridge Practice and Everlief Child Psychology
Author: Hayley Vaughan-Smith, Person-Centred Counsellor

Peer pressure can have a powerful influence on young people’s wellbeing during their teenage years.

It can shape their behaviours and attitudes when they are going through a really important time of growth and development. 

In this guide, I’ll share effective strategies to help you and your teenager understand and navigate peer pressure positively.

close up of teen girl with black hair

Teenagers and Peer Pressure Today 

Teenagers crave acceptance and often seek to fit into social groups. These groups can influence how they act, think, and feel.

With today’s digital age and the prevalence of social media, peer pressure now extends to online communities, amplifying its effects.

Peer pressure can be direct or indirect. Let’s have a quick look at both types.

Direct Peer Pressure 

Direct peer pressure comes as explicit requests or demands from peers, like telling your teen to skip class or send inappropriate photos.

Indirect Peer Pressure

Indirect peer pressure involves subtle cues or implied expectations, like dressing a certain way or holding specific attitudes.

At the severe end, both forms can push teens towards risky behaviours like substance abuse or bullying, while affecting their self-worth, confidence, mental health, and academic performance.


Navigating Peer Pressure: Strategies to Empower Your Teen 

When navigating peer pressure, we need to help our teenagers understand positive  and negative influences more consciously.

Here are 6 strategies I have used successfully as a parent and counsellor. 

1. Encourage Open Communication

Create a welcoming space where your teen feels safe to share their thoughts and experiences.

Let them know they can discuss anything with you without fear of judgment.

For example, you could establish a routine chat during walks or over weekend breakfasts, where topics about friends and school life are discussed openly.

three teen boys sitting on grass chatting

2. Practice Active Listening

When your teen talks about their feelings, listen attentively and validate their emotions, even if you don’t agree.

This approach builds empathy and strengthens your bond.

You might say, “I see why you felt that way,” to show understanding, which can encourage them to open up more in the future.

3. Develop Critical Life Skills

Help your teen build skills like critical thinking and decision-making to handle peer pressure.

Discuss scenarios where they might have to choose between right and wrong or select who to spend time with.

This could involve role-playing situations where they learn to identify and choose positive relationships.

a group of teen girls walking through a shopping centre

4. Lead by Example

Demonstrate how to deal with peer pressure by sharing your own experiences.

Explain the impact of positive and negative influences and show them how you’ve navigated similar challenges.

This not only educates them but also makes the concept more relatable and real.

5. Establish Values and Boundaries

Teach your teen the importance of sticking to their values, even under pressure.

Discuss what expectations you have for them and why these are important.

You might illustrate this by discussing how maintaining honesty or respect can guide them through tough social situations.

mother and son chatting in their kitchen

6. Equip Them with Strategies

Teach strategies to resist peer pressure, such as walking away from uncomfortable situations or having set responses ready.

For instance, practicing phrases like, “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” can prepare them to assert themselves when needed, boosting their confidence in handling peer interactions.

Teen Peer Pressure: Healthy Decisions, Healthy Relationships 

Amongst the many values we teach our children, one of the most important is  prioritising a strong sense of worth.  

How does this contribute towards having healthy relationships? 

It really is the cornerstone of being able to make good decisions and nurturing  positive friendships. Your child is more likely to engage in and recognise positive, respectful and balanced relationships if they have strong core values & sense of self. 

These core values might include: 

  • Compassion 
  • Respect
  • Integrity 
  • Honesty 
  • Accountability 
  • Fairness 
  • Loyalty 

Here are 4 tips to help teens make healthy decisions to build positive  relationships, even if peers are pulling them away from their values. 

1) Make sure your child is clear not only what their most important values are, but what makes a good friend. Talk it through, and write it down if possible (writing helps the brain process important information).

2) Make sure you stick to clear boundaries relating to your values at home, for example kindness and respect for others. You are teaching your teen what values are important to uphold when they are interacting with others.

3) When you see your child struggling with friendships or connection with others, you can offer your support but don’t be surprised if it is met with resistance. 

4) Your teen may need additional professional support if their mental health is being affected by negative peer pressure & unhealthy relationships. Talking therapy such as counselling can help with this. 

teenage girl writing in a journal

Positive Peer Influence 

Let’s not forget that positive peer pressure can be just as powerful as negative peer pressure.

When in a group with empathetic and compassionate peers, your teen can learn important values and feel supported.

Positive role models, including family members, teachers, and mentors, can demonstrate how to handle difficult situations and make healthy choices.

In short, try to help your child surround themselves with positive influences! This is going to help them face the negative ones.

Teen Peer Pressure: Examples

Let’s look at a couple of fictional case studies to help cement what we’ve explored.

Dan: The impact of peer pressure on teenage substance abuse 

Dan, a 17-year-old college student, enjoyed a fulfilling life full of hobbies and a close family.

However, when he moved up to sixth form, he met new friends who liked to party more than study.

At these parties, he felt pushed to fit in and ended up trying alcohol and drugs to be accepted.

As Dan started using substances more, his grades and interest in school dropped, and he pulled away from activities and people he once loved.

His relationships with his family also got worse, as he became secretive and defensive when they talked about his behaviour.

Support For Dan

Seeing these worrying signs, Dan’s parents decided to step in.

They made sure Dan knew he could talk about his problems without fear of judgment, creating a safe space for him to open up. They listened carefully and showed understanding, which helped build trust.

With Dan, they got help from a psychotherapist who knew a lot about teens and substance abuse.

The therapist helped Dan learn important skills, like how to make good decisions and choose friends who have a positive influence.

This helped him stand up to peer pressure.

Dan’s parents also encouraged him to get back into his old hobbies and reconnect with his good friends.

Being part of group therapy sessions helped too, as Dan met other teens going through similar issues, making him feel supported.

The Outcome For Dan

This combined effort of family support, professional help, and personal growth helped Dan move away from bad influences and get back on a positive path.

Dan’s story shows how important it is to choose friends wisely and how much parental support and quick action matter in helping teens deal with tough situations.

teenagers at a house party

Jordan: Positive Peer Pressure in a High School Sports Team 

Jordan, who loved sports but had never joined a team due to shyness and low self-confidence, was encouraged by his best friend, Sam, to try out for the school’s football team.

Sam believed that being part of the team would help Jordan build confidence and open up more.

Once on the team, Jordan was surrounded by supportive teammates who valued teamwork and each member’s role.

This welcoming environment boosted Jordan’s confidence as he felt accepted and valued.

The team’s coach also played a significant role in Jordan’s growth.

He mentored Jordan, focusing on perseverance, teamwork, and sportsmanship. These one-on-one sessions helped Jordan overcome his shyness and self-doubt.

Sam was a constant source of support, staying after practice to help Jordan improve his skills and cheering him on during games.

He also helped Jordan integrate socially with the team, inviting him to activities outside of practice. This strong network of friends provided a foundation of positive peer influence, reinforcing healthy behaviors and attitudes.

The Outcome For jordan

Throughout the season, Jordan’s confidence, discipline, and sense of responsibility grew significantly. The positive influences from his teammates, Sam’s unwavering support, and his coach’s mentorship all contributed to his personal development.

This case shows how positive peer pressure and the support of trusted adults can significantly impact a teenager’s self-worth and happiness.

two teen boys in soccer kit chatting and laughing

Helping Your Teen With Peer Pressure: Bringing it All Together

Building strong self-esteem, developing critical thinking skills and talking with trusted  adults can positively support teenagers when navigating peer pressure.

Teens should be encouraged to assert their values and make independent decisions, despite peer influence. And having a supportive network of friends who share positive behaviours can reinforce good choices.

Teaching your teenager about peer pressure and equipping them with strategies to resist it, such as rehearsing responses or walking away from uncomfortable situations, will empowers them to navigate social challenges more confidently. 

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Hayley Vaughan-Smith is a Person-Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.

Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care for four years.

Hayley is mum to 3 grown up girls, and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy. Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.

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