Everyone wants to be accepted, but teens face more pressure to fit in at a time in their lives when they still haven’t figured out what kind of person they want to be. Fitting in might mean having the best and most expensive car, clothing or cell phone, and acting in accordance with whatever that day’s definition of cool is. In some circles, this can mean joining a group to smoke, drink, use drugs or gamble.

Here’s how you can empower your child to stand up to undesirable pressures:

  • Verbalize your recognition of how different their world is from when you were a teen. Understand that kids today live in a world where drugs and alcohol are ever-present.
  • Clearly and confidently convey your views on smoking, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, so that they can form their own strong standpoints as well. In a study of 285 eleventh graders, those who considered their parents lax about drugs and alcohol got drunk or used drugs much more often. If you do not have an opinion, do your research.
  • Challenge your teen to be a leader, not a follower. Provide opportunities for debate and independent decision-making. Emphasize the importance of being honest and having integrity.
  • Develop, model, and encourage good stress management skills. Allow your child to express negative emotions. Practice healthy listening skills.
  • Be involved and invite other adults, such as team coaches, religious leaders, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, etc., to take an active, positive role in your teen’s life.
  • The media has a huge influence on teens when it comes to substance use, gender roles, body image, and overall behavior. Encourage thoughtful conversation about what he or she is viewing.
  • Focus on your child’s positive traits instead of criticizing; praise talents and nurture his or her interests. Avoid commenting on appearance – instead, focus on health.
  • When someone does get into trouble with substance abuse or gambling, don’t sweep the story under the rug. Rather, use it as a springboard for conversation that teaches your children what to do and what not to do.
  • Try your best to monitor your teen’s friends and what they are doing. Encourage wholesome activities. Work with your spouse and teen to set reasonable curfews.