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​​​Success in School Issue12345

Peer Pressure and Getting Along ​with Classmates

School can be a difficult social situation for any child to master. No longer safe in the cocoon of their home, school-age children are suddenly thrust into a new and unfamiliar world where they must have the appropriate skills to create an environment that allows for learning and avoids distractions.

If children have been armed with certain social skills, such as introducing yourself and talking with others, then making friends and getting along with classmates will be relatively easy. Conversely, children who struggle with these skills will have difficulty in these situations. As a parent, you can begin teaching these important skills early on, so by the time your children reach school age, they’ll be ready to make their way in this strange new world.

Teaching Your Child ‘How’ to Make Friends

Apart from the actual knowledge that education provides, making friends may be the most important thing children learn in school. After all, this is a skill that will serve them throughout their lives.

Friendships begin with an introduction, so it’s important for children to learn this simple social skill. It consists of five simple steps (though the fourth, shaking the person’s hand, may be omitted between schoolchildren):

    1. Look at the person and smile.
    2. Use a pleasant voice.
    3. Say, “Hi, my name is...”
    4. Shake the person’s hand.
    5. When you leave, say, “It was nice to meet you.”

While this may seem simple to us as adults, it’s a skill that is not inherently intuitive for children and must be learned. Without this skill, children can never develop the ability to make a proper introduction— traits that may follow them into adulthood.

It’s important to practice this skill over and over so they are comfortable. Practice introductions with your child while on the playground, when sitting down to a meal or when seated next to someone new. All of the situations they might find themselves in during a typical school day. Children constantly watch and mimic their parents, so it is important that you model this skill with our teaching activity over the next week.

Once friendships are established make sure that you have regular discussions with your child as they grow regarding friendships and what makes a good friend vs what makes a bad friend. For a list of discussion points that will help start a nonjudgmental conversation about friendships, click here.

Teach Them the Steps to Avoid Peer Pressure

One thing that is unavoidable when children gather together in groups is peer pressure. While this term has an inherently negative connotation, it should be mentioned that not all peer pressure is bad. If your child falls in with a group of friends that is academically high-achieving, then there will be peer pressure among the group to succeed academically. This is generally a good thing. This is also why it’s so important that children fall in with positive and nurturing peer groups. Falling in with “the wrong crowd” is one of the greatest indicators that a child might go down the wrong path and exhibit negative behavior and poor academic performance.

When it comes to negative peer pressure (such as the pressure to use drugs or alcohol), it’s important to walk thru the steps they can take when they find themselves in one of these situations. Using the steps outlined in Issue 1, teach the social skill below and practice it in many ‘mock’ situations. The more prepared they are, the better they will be able to stand their ground.

Teaching Activity

Put on the Pressure

Each day this week, practice a different situation in which your child might find themselves needing the ability to resist peer pressure. Have the whole family involved in each situation. For example, have each member of the family pretend to be a friend at a party. Have one family member offer an alcoholic drink, encourage the other family members to jump in and add to the peer pressure, “you’re not cool if you don’t take it,” “everyone is drinking!”, etc. Have your child practice the steps of the social skill below to help get themselves out of the situation.

Teach your child to think when others put them in a position like this.

  • Your children should ask themselves questions like: Is it wrong? Why do they want me to do it? Is it illegal? Why am I tempted to go along? Am I afraid that they will laugh at me?

Teach your child to decide for themselves whether something is right or wrong, helpful or harmful.

  • Bring up examples of situations they may be in; then explore what might happen if they respond a certain way. Let them think about the consequences of their actions and behavior. If they have an uneasy feeling, something is probably wrong.

Sometimes children just need help getting away from a bad situation. Provide them with some alternative responses ​they can use to resist peer pressure.

  • If they don’t feel comfortable giving an immediate "Yes" or "No" answer when friends want them to do something questionable, they can buy time to make a good decision by saying, "Maybe later," or "I'll wait and see." Let them use you as an excuse: "I will be grounded forever if I try that."

Ask your child what gives him or her trouble when faced with a tough decision, and incorporate that in the practices. Use it to help your children build confidence in their ability to say "No."

Social Skill

Resisting Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is inherently difficult to resist. After all, it’s much easier to go along with the ​group than to go against it. These steps will help your child resist negative peer pressure when it arises:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Use a calm, assertive voice.
  3. State clearly that you do not want to engage in the inappropriate activity.
  4. Suggest an alternative activity. Give a reason.
  5. If the person persists, continue to say, “No.”
  6. If the peer will not accept your “No” answer, ask them to leave, or remove yourself from the situation.

Coming up in Issue 3

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