Growing up isn’t easy. It seems like there are all sorts of changes happening, and it can be tough to find your place. Adolescents and teens begin to see a change in their relationships with others: Friends take on a more prominent role, making way for peer pressure to have a positive or a negative effect on your life. Now is the time when everyone is looking to fit in with the crowd, but trying to fit in can sometimes get you into bad situations.

What Is Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure is feeling like you have to do something because your peers are doing it, or because they want you to do it. So who are your peers? Peers are friends and acquaintances, other people your own age that you spend time with. They can be other kids from school, kids in your neighborhood, or kids on your sports team. The more time that you spend with these peers, the more pressure you may feel to do what everyone else is doing.

Sometimes, peer pressure comes in the form of others telling you that you need to do something to be like everyone else in the group. They may put you down if you aren’t doing whatever the group is doing, calling you “chicken” or “weak.” But peer pressure isn’t always verbal. Sometimes, kids see what others are doing and they want to be perceived as part of the “in group,” so they begin to act or dress like these people, doing what they can to fit in and follow along.

Types of Peer Pressure

Negative peer pressure makes a person feel like they aren’t going to fit in unless they participate in activities that are likely to hurt them in some way. For example, you might think that you have to have the right type of clothing to fit in with the group, but if you don’t have the “right” things, it could lead to things like fights with the family or even theft. Body image can also be affected by a peer group. Feeling like you need to lose weight in order to be part of the group or work out to fit in could lead to an eating disorder.

Bullying others and skipping school are other examples of things that peers might try to pressure you into. It’s important to remember that even standing by and watching someone else being bullied without stepping in to help is a problem. These behaviors change your reputation and can cause lots of trouble at school. Drugs and alcohol can be common subjects of peer pressure, too, but remember that using drugs or alcohol can open the door to all sorts of consequences, including a long list of health problems, trouble with the police, injuries, and accidents.

Peer Support

It’s important to remember that peer pressure isn’t always negative. There are times when peer pressure can be positive. It can be good to have a core group of people your own age who support you and help you make positive decisions. When you’re involved with other people doing the right thing, it can help keep you on track. You may find that you like the idea of fitting in with people who are making the right choices and treat you with respect. When you are struggling with something, you can talk to this group about issues that you are having, learn more about yourself by interacting with others, and even gain a sense of security because the people around you really care.

Dealing With Peer Pressure

Peer support is actually one of the best ways to deal with negative peer pressure. When you feel like one group of friends is trying to get you to do something you don’t want to, find better friends who can help you get through the situation. You might find that you spend less time with the negative peers and more with those who are a more positive part of your life.

It’s important that you take a closer look at yourself and stand up for what you believe in. When someone tries to pressure you, be assertive, letting others know that you aren’t planning on doing what they want you to do. Think about what is best for you and act accordingly. Remember that you are in complete control of your choices.

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