13 Ways to Help Our Kids Prepare for and Deal with Peer Pressure

The school bell has rung and the new school year is in full force. No matter where we live, or where our children go to school, all kids have something in common; they will be faced with peer pressure. As parents, there is much we can do to help our children prepare for, and deal with the pressure that will come from their peers.

1. Believe in our kids, they will believe in us.

Our kids need to know WE believe in them. We know they can make right choices and we know they are strong. Tell them. Point out their good choices and the consequences of right choices. Point out their strengths.

We as parents also need to make right choices. Are we being the best parents we can be? Our children should expect that we would protect them, and do what is best for them. Even if they grumble, or disagree, it is our job to stand our ground and do what is best, not be their BFF.

2. Communicate with our Children: The 3 B’s: (Be Available, Be Present, Be Patient)

As parents, we need to keep the lines of communication open with our children. Especially as they start into their teenage years. How can we do this? Start young, very young, and be available, present and patient.

First, we have to be available. It we are not available, how can our children/teenagers talk to us. We don’t have to announce that we are ready to talk, we have to naturally be there. Be there after school, turn the music off when driving in the car, eat a meal together, be awake when kids come home. Find something that your child likes to do and do it with them. It is the perfect time to not only allow our children to tell us what they are dealing with, but, it is a time for us to talk to them about the pressures that they might be feeling at school and with their friends. We have been there, we know what is going on. Sometimes our kids need us to bring things up because they don’t know how.

Once we have made time and are available, we need to be present. We need to stop thinking about all the other things we need to do, and really be in the conversations. Give our children our undivided attention.

Last, be patient and realize that communication happens over time. It is built on trust and experience. Always be available and present, and our children will start to open up.

3. Express Love

Knowing we are loved gives us confidence and strength. Even if a child does something wrong, NEVER withhold love as a consequence. Our children should know that our love is unconditional.

4. Be Confident Parents: We matter more than peers.

Naturally, children do not want to disappoint their parents, this can single handedly keep children from falling to peer pressure.

5. Role Play

This is a powerful way for us to prepare our children to fight against peer pressure. Be the forceful friend and “act out” different real life situation.

Ask hard questions….

  • “What if someone offers you drugs”?
  • “What if your friend asks you to steal something”?

Work through what your child could say. It will make it so much easier when it really happens. It is like a memory reflex and the answers will come to your child much easier. They won’t be caught off guard when it happens.

6. Talk about peer pressure.

Tell our children about peer pressure, explain what it feels like, why it happens, and when you have had it happen to you. Give them examples of times when you were faced with peer pressure and how you overcame it. Or, if appropriate, when you fell to peer pressure and the consequences for your decisions. There is strength in our children knowing we understand because we have been there. As parents when you see peer pressure happening, point it out. Our children can have a hard time seeing it.

7. Set rules…AND…Follow through

Set rules, for the every day, and if they fall to peer pressure (ex, drink the beer). Make the consequences VERY CLEAR, and…enforce the consequences. We can talk all we want, but if we don’t follow through, our children will know they can get away with breaking the rules. Make it clear to your children that just because “everyone was doing it”, doesn’t mean that it is okay.

8. Don’t let kids stay the night

Sleeping away from home makes it a lot easier for our children to fall to peer pressure. Why, because they don’t have to come home to their parents. There can be too much freedom away from home for an extended period of time.

9. Wait up for your child

Be awake when your kids come home. Teens will think twice about falling to peer pressure when they have to come home and face you. It is also a really good time for you to be present and talk with your kids about their night.

10 Encourage Opinions

It is okay for our children to have an opinion. In fact we want them to have opinions about what is right and wrong, and how they feel about sex, drugs and alcohol. Help them develop their opinions. Have conversations where you help your children think through the how’s and why’s. Teach them to be critical thinkers. It will give them confidence, and children with opinions are more likely to speak their minds, which is exactly what they need to do to stand up to peer pressure.

11. Teach Conflict Resolution

We deal with conflict our entire lives; at home, at work, at school. Standing up to peer pressure can bring conflict. Teaching our children conflict management skills will not only prepare them for peer pressure, but, prepare them for life. Home is a great place to practice dealing with conflict. As a parent, when there is a problem, we want to jump in and fix it. Don’t. Let children do all they can to work out a resolution on their own. You will be surprised to find that kids can, and will solve their own arguments and conflicts.

12. Teach our kids how to choose good friends.

Our children need to be taught social skills, and how to choose good friends, and be a good friend. Encourage them to choose friends with similar core values and beliefs. Teach them what friendship means, and how good friends treat each other. (A good friend doesn’t pressure you to do anything).

13. There will be mistakes, don’t make them public

When our children do fall to peer pressure, don’t make it public. Spreading the word about your child’s poor choices will not help them make better choices. It will just weaken your relationship. It will hurt the trust that you have tried to build and weaken your children’s resolve. Instead, teach them how to take responsibility for their choices. Help them reflect on what has happened and why.

We owe it to our children to prepare them for the peer pressure they will face. It will not only help them, but help our family relationships as well.

Have your children felt the pressure of their peers?

How do you handle good and bad choices your children make?

Do you ever have a hard time enforcing consequences?

Won’t You Take the Safety Pledge?

You may or may not be aware but last week was Child Passenger Safety Week- a program to remind us all of the importance of properly installed and sized car seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also partnered with the creators of Chuggington to further spread the message of safety for children in and around cars.

The Chuggington website, designed for kids aged 2 to 7, has many interactive features including cartoon like characters, videos, pages to color and other activities to help teach kids about this critical safety topic. Remember that motor vehicle collisions continue to be the leading cause of death in children. Anything that helps to increase safety and awareness will ultimately benefit us all.

Among the various activities, participants may take the safety pledge’ to remind them they are committed to their own safety. And now that I have taken the pledge, I can proudly display my downloaded safety badge and certificate.

One last thought…it’s never too late to check the installation and sizing of your child’s car seat. For more information and resources please visit NHTSA’s car seat information site

Good Dental Habits Today Create a Lifetime of Healthy Teeth

Habits are behavioral patterns that we repeat over and over again. Unfortunately, we’re often not aware of the specific behavior we are repeating. This goes for our kids as well. Four of the most common habits children develop are the following:

  1. nail biting
  2. thumb sucking
  3. hair twirling
  4. nose picking

As a parent, it is your responsibility to help teach your children good habits that are healthy when they are young. This helps them turn good choices into a way of life. We all remember the old adage “do what I say, not what I do”. Well, we all know that doesn’t work with kids. They need to see that you are doing what you are asking them to do. Be sure you are demonstrating good dental habits to your kids first and foremost.

Let’s talk about good dental hygiene habits for kids. Now that school is back in session and summer has come to an end, children are getting back into more structured daily routines. This is a great time to get your child started on a daily schedule of brushing and flossing their teeth. If their routine has been relaxed over the summer, it’s time for more consistency. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day is very important for healthy teeth. Encourage your kids to be responsible when it comes to brushing and flossing the older they get.

Another important habit to form is to get them on a routine cleaning schedule at your dentist every six months as recommended. This will help them understand the importance of caring for their teeth at a young age.

There are so many things to do at the end of the day but don’t let brushing and flossing your kid’s teeth fall through the cracks!

When Mom Goes Back to School

I took a leave of absence from work at the beginning of this year to spend more time with my son, then 8 years old. Work had been very stressful for a long time, with long hours and lots of overseas travel and the associated jet lag – which made me as mentally absent upon my return home as I had been physically absent during my trip.

One evening, when I was thinking about applying for leave, I asked my son about the idea during our bedtime cuddles. “So, sweetie, what would you think if, maybe, mommy didn’t work for a while….would you like that?” I said. His response, after a moment of consideration, surprised me. “No, I wouldn’t like that,” he said. Hmmph! What gratitude! Why was I even thinking of this??…But then, with a sly grin, he burst out with, “I would LOVE THAT!!!!!” That response – including his cute, sneaky delivery – made a real impact on me.

Despite my desire to be with him, I also wanted to use the time off for other purposes – and knew I would need other stimulation. Through my work over the previous few years implementing diabetes education programs, I had developed an interest in helping to improve the health of communities and was seriously considering going back to school to do a Masters degree in Public Health. During the spring I sought input from various colleagues and friends and talked it over with my husband – and I decided to apply.

During summer break I took my son to Chicago for a week of fun, sightseeing and mother-son bonding. But it was also a chance for me to connect with some colleagues located there, who I worked with on the diabetes program – one of whom acted as a reference for my graduate school application. Over dinner at the Rainforest Café (have to keep the kids engaged!), we talked about my potential renewed academic career, especially as my friend was an experienced healthcare professional. Well, what is the saying about little ears???

I found out on the drive back to our hotel that in all my planning for school, I had neglected to mention anything of the idea to my son. I hadn’t realized. How could that have been the case? Why didn’t it occur to me to involve him…at least to confer with him as I had when deciding whether to apply for leave from work? Well, I suppose I didn’t think he’d really care, or really “get” it. Much of the academic work would take place during the day while he was at school, and the program offered the option to go part-time, which I was strongly considering. At any rate, I realized I hadn’t told him – and I paid for that…

In the absence of a prepared and controlled delivery of the information, his imagination had taken control. His reaction in the car essentially went like this (imagine the panicked/frenetic tone of an eight-year-old boy):

“You’re going back to school??? Why? Who said? I don’t want you to go back to school. Have you talked to Dad about this? Isn’t this something the family should decide? What if Nelson and Fiona don’t want you to go? [Note: Nelson and Fiona are our DOGS!]

“No you can’t go back to school. You’ll never be around. You’ll be gone all the time. I’ll never see you. I’ll be stuck with Dad! [Sorry honey!] You took time off from work to spend with ME!”

Nothing I said had any impact. He was inconsolable. And he was determined. It was a short drive back to the hotel, and when we arrived he was off like a shot, the card-key to our room in his hand (it had become a little family ritual that when we stayed in hotels, Elliott got to carry one of the room keys and be the one to open the door). When I got to our room and knocked on the door, he wouldn’t let me in directly. He had the door on the security latch so it opened only a little and, before he would let me in, he insisted that I had to pinkie-swear that I wouldn’t go back to school! Well I started to lay down the law, but he was quite upset, even a little hysterical, so in the end I did pinkie-swear…oh boy!

When we got back home a couple of days later, we sat down as a family and talked about the situation. I told him I was going to school – I had received my acceptance by then – but that spending time with him was still a top priority, so I would do what I could to manage my schedule, and we would see how it went. He was eventually fine with the situation, especially once he knew more about what my going back to school meant (i.e. I wouldn’t be moving to a dorm like our college-babysitter!). But it was a good lesson for me. Kids are people all their own. It’s not possible to know what’s going on in their heads and how they might view new developments in the family….so it’s important to communicate with them early when changes might be happening. It also gave me some insight into how much he had been affected by my frequent and protracted business trips. It gave me additional reassurance that taking time off to be with him was the right thing to do, despite whatever issues it might create down the road for my career.

So, fast forward a couple of months and I’m now in classes – writing research papers and studying for tests – and things are generally working out fine at home. Plus I’m getting lots of material for future posts on health and safety! But more on that later…

October Sensory Friendly Movie Screening: Dolphin Tale

For those of you not familiar with ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

To quote our Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves: “It can be challenging enough to bring a child to a movie theater – they are dark, the sound is very loud, there are tempting stairs and rails and they are expected to sit still and stay quiet. When a child has special needs all these elements and many others can prove too daunting to even attempt such an outing. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children – and their caregivers, too”.

On October 1st at 10am local time, “Dolphin Tale” will be screened as part of the “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program.

Coming November 5th: Puss in Boots


Editor’s note: Dolphin Tale is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. Please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of Dolphin Tale to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Closer Parent-Bond Benefits Child Mental Health

Fun vacations and special occasions make great family memories, but they’re not what create a sense of closeness between parents and kids. Tight bonds come from being involved and interested in your kid’s daily life – from schoolwork, to hobbies, to friends and more.

Why is it important to get closer to your kids? A 2010 Binghamton University study found that it greatly boosts child mental health. And if you start early, the bonds will be long-lasting too: According to an MTV/Associated Press survey, teens and young adults said that the greatest source of happiness is spending time with family.

Here are seven easy ways to get closer to your kids.

1. Share a hobby

Whether it’s drawing cartoons or doing jigsaw puzzles, a quiet activity you can do together will bring you closer. Playing sports or video games is fun, but it doesn’t give you the same opportunity to talk or just work side by side. It doesn’t matter if you do it every night, once a week or once a month – as long as you make time (and a commitment) to enjoy it together regularly.

2. Set aside time to talk

When your child comes to tell you something, give him your full attention. That means putting down the phone, turning off the laptop, or even turning off the stove so you can face him and really listen to what he’s saying. Set aside a few minutes every day to ask what he learned at school, how his playdate went, etc. And try not to interrupt. This is his time to talk, not yours!

3. Review homework

Sitting down five nights a week to go over schoolwork shows how much you value your child’s education – and the effort she puts into it. Offer help if she needs it and give praise when she earns it. Most important, ask her to explain what she knows. She’ll feel great teaching you a thing or two.

4. Be open

Communication is a two-way street, and your child benefits from hearing your thoughts as much as you do from hearing his. Keep an open dialogue on everything from politics to personal beliefs, being honest but age-appropriate in what you say.

5. Create rituals

They can be serious or silly, but having reliable routines gives your child a sense of security and family identity. Whether it’s eating pancakes for dinner every Sunday or having pizza-and-movie night every other Friday, creating rituals shows how much you value spending time together. Later, you may hear your child saying to others, “Here’s what we do in my family.”

6. Play make-believe

Playing is so crucial to a child’s emotional and intellectual development that the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights deemed it a right of every child. Sit down for a teddy-bear tea party or have a make-believe pirate sword fight in the living room. Taking part in your kids’ pretend play gives you a window into their feelings, fantasies and fears – and shows them you want to be part of their special world. Check out this make-believe playing guide for more on how to play pretend with your kids.

7. Read together

Studies show that children who grow up watching their parents read are better readers themselves. But reading to a young child – or reading the same book as your older one and then discussing it – is a way to explore the world and share ideas every day.