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Teach Relationship Skills

"Kids need friends. Building relationships is an important part of their development," says Siegel, and parents have a role in this learning process. You know that relationships are often messy. Your child may not have figured that out yet. Siegel suggests frequent conversations that will help your child develop friendship skills. Open with questions such as:

  • What do you like about your friend?
  • What are you getting out of the friendship?
  • What happens when you don’t agree with your friend?

Observe and Comment on Teen Peer Pressure

"Some children come under the influence of a close friend who constantly acts out," says Hedrick. If this sounds like your child, your challenge is to share your point of view without criticizing the friend. Lay your worries on the table in a matter-of-fact way. For example:

  • "You seem to break the rules every time Johnny comes over."
  • "I get calls from other parents when you and Johnny hang out."

Some situations call for dramatic action. Fleissner recalls a family who moved across state lines to remove their son from a destructive friend network. He didn’t like it at the time, but thanked his parents years later.

Visualize Peer Pressure

Role-playing and visualization can help kids imagine what they would do to get out of the pressure zone. "Often, kids find themselves in the moment, doing things they never thought they would do," says Wallace. Help your child practice warding off peer pressure by playing a game of "What if?"

  • What if you were at a party and someone had a bottle of pills?
  • What if you were about to get into a car and realized the driver was drunk?

The game can serve two purposes. First, it lets your child develop a peer-pressure game plan, which can include calling you. Second, it lets her know she can say no and blame it on you. "My mom would kill me," is a perfectly good way out of these situations.

Help Teens Learn From Their Missteps

No matter what you say or do, your child may still mess up. As upset as you may be, your child probably is, too. Fleissner says parents should be ready to help their children take responsibility for their mistakes, and support them in moving on. This is an important time to help a child look at how he makes decisions. Siegel agrees. "Parents should ask questions that encourage self-reflection," he says.

Parents can’t anticipate every social challenge their children will face. Kids who know their parents love them, who value their own opinions, and have practice thinking critically, have a greater chance of saying "No thank you."

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