This is a question we get asked a lot, particularly during our parent seminars. “How can I support my young person around alcohol and other drugs when they’re going to face peer pressure?”
Having a discussion around alcohol and other drugs with your young person is one thing, but knowing how to prepare and support them for tricky situations is another. It can sometimes feel difficult for a young person to stick to their choices when they’re faced with peer pressure.
So, what can you do as a parent or guardian to help prepare and encourage them to stick to their decisions?
Talking about alcohol and other drugs
Having the discussion around alcohol and other drugs is very important. There is no one set way to have these discussions, but one of the most important factors is that you as the parent or guardian have correct and factual information around alcohol and other drugs.
When you equip your young person with accurate information (not just things heard from a friend or seen on TV), it helps them to make an informed choice about what’s right for them. For example, you may make the assumption that most of their peers are using alcohol or other drugs, which in turn can normalise that behaviour. While, in fact, the majority of young people have actually never tried alcohol or any other kind of illicit drug.
When we receive the facts and normalise that more and more young people are choosing not to try alcohol and other drugs, it can give confidence to your young person to make the same positive choice for themselves.
Finding accurate information doesn’t have to be difficult either! You can visit Encounter Youth’s Parent Resources page, you can chat to your child’s school wellbeing leaders about having Encounter Youth Education out for a parent information night, or you can view some of the online resources from the leading authorities in Australia on alcohol and other drugs such as The Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation and Australian Government Department of Health.
Once you have the facts, another important factor is timing.
The most effective time to talk to your young person about alcohol and other drugs is before they’re exposed. Unfortunately, there’s almost no way to know when your young person is going to be exposed to alcohol or drugs. They may not see any drug use at home but they can see it on social media, through friends or other sources. So, talking to them sooner rather than later is a great choice you can make as a parent or guardian to prepare them.
Thirdly, it’s important for you as a parent or guardian to be open during these conversations. We know from research that lecturing young people on what they should or should not do can often have an opposite outcome. When discussions around alcohol and other drugs are approached in a conversational way, young people are much more likely to listen and respond. For example, rather than telling your young person what choices they should be making around alcohol and other drugs, it can be helpful to simply ask them what they think about alcohol and other drugs and listen to their thoughts or questions.
You can also ask them what they might do if they were faced with a tricky situation around alcohol and other drugs, and start an open and honest conversation from that point. Of course, for some young people, no amount of open dialogue will make them want to talk about alcohol and other drugs and you may be constantly faced with a negative reaction or frustration. In cases like these, it’s best to stay calm, try your best and don’t give up. You may not be able to have a conversation about alcohol and other drugs, but at least being able to state your rules and expectations around alcohol and other drugs can set a solid groundwork.
Lastly, clearly stating your rules and expectations around alcohol and other drug use can help your young person to know what is expected of them. When we set the bar for our young people, they often rise up to it, especially when they know exactly where it’s been set. If your young person decides to break the rules, it’s helpful if you have clear consequences set in place as well.
When you have an open dialogue around alcohol and other drugs that involves factual information, you can clearly explain why you have set certain boundaries and consequences. It’ll be easier for your young person to understand why you’ve set the rules the way you have. You may even find that through having an open conversation, you and your young person can work together to set certain boundaries and consequences.
Strategies for Young People
Coming back to our original question: how do I support my young person in the midst of peer pressure?
If your young person is on their own at a party or gathering, it’s up to them to be able to stick to their choices. We as parents and guardians may not be physically present to help them out, but we can prepare them and give them tools for when they may be feeling pressured into making a certain decision.
Here are some strategies you can share with your young person:
Peer pressure and the thought of your young person possibly facing tricky situations can be a bit of scary thing, especially when we as parents can’t be there to help them. There are, however, ways that you can prepare and equip them with tools and knowledge to not only help them make the decisions that are right for them, but to stick to those choices when others may be questioning them.