You pull up to pick up your son, and there is an ambulance there. Your heart starts racing. There is a boy strapped to the stretcher, you cannot who it is. You scan the crowd, searching for your own kid. You keep scanning. Your heart races faster, and your breath catches in your throat. Then you see him. Eyes welling up, you run to him, embrace him. Check to make sure he is okay.
He is shaken, noticeably upset. You ask “What happened?”
It’s an old story. Your kid knew not to do something. His friends all wanted to do it. Rather than look like a “Mama’s boy”, he consented, too. And now his best friend is being carted off, on a stretcher, his fate yet unknown.
As a parent, this is one of the worst moment you could imagine. And you are mad. Mad at yourself. You didn’t want to leave the boys unsupervised, but he begged, he pleaded. You consented.
And you never want to be in this situation again.
So how do you talk to your kids about avoiding peer pressure?
First, you’ve got to be clear with your limits (not allowed to be unsupervised on the mountain when skiing, for instance).
Then, you’ve got to communicate them with your kid. “I know the other parents let their kids, and I actually DO trust you. Here’s the thing—we have a rule, no going in the half pike without me or your Dad. But if your friends all want to go, can you really say no? I don’t want you to be stuck in that position, because there isn’t really a good way to get out of it. Blame me when your friends ask why you can’t go with them for a few hours. When I can take you, I will. We’ll schedule it, and I’m happy to take your friends, too. But blame me for not being able to go, but I just don’t want you in the position where you really can’t say no—even if you really want to say no.”
Lastly, keep your word with your kid. Maybe you can’t take them every day after school, but maybe during ski season, you could take them once a week, or trade off with other parents who will be ON THE MOUTAIN with them.
Letting your kid know that you understand where they are coming from, and that you trust them, and they could be in an impossible situation, will make a huge difference for you, and them, in their ability to avoid peer pressure.
As they get older, invited to parties, start driving; they will be more likely and able to communicate the things that they may be exposed to, and how to navigate them. I’ve even heard of kids ASKING their parents to ground them so they don’t have to go to a party where they know there will be drinking.