Handling Peer Pressure as a Family

as seen in Brooklyn Family Magazine and on NY Parenting com

Dear Sharon,

Our daughter’s friends have been stealing. When they go to a party at someone’s home, they go through the drawers and take things. She told me this. What should I do about it? I feel I should do something, but I don’t know what to do.


Dear Susan,

When children are caught up in ongoing “stealing” or other thoughtless actions moms and dads can certainly help.

I encourage adults to make sure that they have good relationships with the parents of children in their child’s social circle, strengthening ties with those who share their ideas about limits and general expectations for their children.

It is best to have ongoing relationships with other families in place before complex situations like the one you describe develop but it is never too late to look for and talk to other parents who share your concerns. A group of adults can think through solutions such as better supervision and general awareness at parties and other social gatherings as well as agreeing on ways to speak to children about what is going on and how and why to avoid peer pressure. Sometimes it is even possible to enlist the help of caring school personnel who know the children involved. When parents and other adults can act in unison children are less likely to feel separate from their peers and more a part of a caring community.

Unfortunately it sometimes can be too difficult to reach out to others without negative consequences. The children who are acting out might not be given the support they need to successfully change their actions and difficulties could escalate. A child such as your daughter who is not involved in suspect behavior could also be ostracized or targeted for “telling” adults and getting her friends in trouble.

If it too risky to share confidential information it can be best to focus on supporting a child who has managed to stay clear when socializing “gets out of control.” It is not uncommon for one or two young people in an exciting social situation such as a party to convince others that stealing or other troublesome behaviors are fun or a way to be included in a “popular” group. Peer pressure can be very hard to negotiate and/or resist.

Moms and dads can make a big difference by taking the time to listen to their child’s concerns about social challenges, supporting and appreciating his or her good judgment and setting up ample time and space for ongoing discussion about friendships. Helping children find like-minded friends who visit their home often can also help a great deal.

It is a good sign when children tell their parents about peer pressures they are juggling. Trusting parents enough to ask for help or advice can make a big difference to any young person. If one child is getting support and clarity at home it can help other children handle social pressure as well.