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See Through Their Eyes. Reassure your child that while friends will sometimes hassle him/her for not going along, many times they won’t. Either way, the most important thing is for her/him to make her/his own decisions.

Adolescents also tend to overestimate how many people are actually involved in risky behaviors. For example, adolescents in a recent survey said they thought that more than 50% of teens smoke; the actual number is closer to 25%. Make sure your child knows that the large majority of both teens and adults simply DO NOT smoke.

Set Boundaries. Your expectations must be crystal clear.

Your rules must also be crystal clear, whether for negative behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, or for privileges such as driving and curfews. Involve your child in setting some boundaries and rules (curfews, for example), but always make it clear that YOU have the final say. Make sure your child and you both understand that the consequences for breaking rules will be enforced.

Know Your Child’s Friends. Make friends feel welcome in your home – when you are there. If they are comfortable, they will spend more time at your home and less time in unsupervised places.

Pay attention to how the kids interact with you and with each other. Are the relationships equal and respectful? Do your kids hold their own when they are joking or goofing around, or do they seem to be easily influenced by what their friends say to them? 

When alone with your child, point out positive qualities of the friends as well as the negative ones, in an objective manner. Make sure you clearly state that you do not approve of certain behaviors of a friend; don’t just say you don’t like the friend.

Reward your child for making good choices in friends by occasionally extending curfew, or by having a pizza party at your home.

Know the friends’ families as well. Always try to meet the parents.

If your child is invited to a party, make sure to call the parents and ask what is planned. Do NOT be afraid to call, or be intimidated. This is your precious child!

You have EVERY RIGHT to know in what activities your child is involved. You may find that the parents were planning an evening out and did not even know their child had planned a party! You may be saving several teens from a dangerous evening…

Manage Stress. Be aware of some signs of stress in your teen: frequent headaches, feeling irritable, chest or stomach pain, anxiety, withdrawal, sleep problems.

  • Teach your child to prioritize activities. If too much is going on, talk together about the pros and cons of each activity, and decide which one(s) to drop.
  • Help him/her to keep things in perspective. Always empathize with your child, even on minor matters. Then, talk about all the positive things in his/her life, and remind him/her you love him and will always care about him/her, no matter what.
  • Manage Stress. Set a good example for managing stress yourself, by exercising, getting sufficient sleep, eating well, and having fun!

Encourage Independent Thinking. Encourage your child to be a leader, to form opinions and make decisions based on his/her own judgment. Ask questions life, “What do you think about what – is doing? What do you think of their choices?”

Remember that thinking through these problems helps him/her to trust his/her ability to make independent decisions; he/she will then be less vulnerable to peer pressure.

Get Them Involved. Some kids take inappropriate risks because they are bored. Getting your child involved in groups or clubs that fit his/her interests can reduce the chances of boredom and provide the child with a new set of strengths.

Besides building her confidence by helping her to achieve something positive, being involved in activities can introduce him/her to a group of peers who share her/his interests, as well as to coaches or group leaders who can reinforce your message and be mentors and good role models.

[excerpted from “Peer Pressure & Smoking: Raising Kids Who Don’t Smoke”]