Helping Individuals Manage Peer Pressure

Published On: 30 June 2022

Reading time: 3 minutes

We’re all influenced by the people around us. It’s natural for us to change how we behave to fit in with our friends and family. But peer pressure goes further. It’s the feeling you must do something you’d prefer not to do.

Younger children may experience peer pressure to play a particular game or act in a certain way. It can be hard for them to express their views and opinions if they’re different from their more confident friends, or struggle to make friendships. Young adults may feel an acute pressure to fit in with their peers, leading them to behave in a way they may not ordinarily choose. Adults can also be affected by peer pressure, too.

How to help those experiencing peer pressure

It’s hard for even the most confident individuals to stand up for themselves sometimes. No one likes to say no to their friends or feel they stand out. But there are a range of ways you can support an individual if they are feeling pressured.

1: Say “no” and walk away

Remind the individual it’s okay to say “no” if they don’t feel comfortable with something. Rather than putting up with the pressure, they may find it easier to make an excuse and leave. Clearly saying, “I don’t choose to do that,” makes it clear that this is their decision rather than suggesting they might be persuaded to change their mind.  

2: Suggest something else

Giving an alternative suggestion is often easier than an outright “no”. For example, the individual could say, “Why don’t we play football rather than running races?”

3: Practise what they’ll say

Practice makes perfect — the more they say it, the easier it becomes. Rehearsing what the individual could say when they’re feeling pressured can help give them confidence and feel prepared to say no. You could role play scenarios and share cartoon strips to make it clear what they can do in this situation.

4: Plan a get out

You want the individual in your care to have the confidence to speak their mind, but they may find this too difficult. Having a “get out” reason can take the pressure off them. For example, they could have a pre-arranged alternative option rather than admitting they don’t want to do something. This is especially useful if you’re working with young people who may struggle more to say no to their friends.

5: Talk about what makes a good friend

Talking about friendship helps to teach the individuals you work with what real friends should look like. You can remind them, “Good friends let you have your own opinions, and they still stay friends.” 

Also remind them it doesn’t just work one way. Some may not realise they’re putting their friends under pressure. Make it clear to them that when a friend says no, they should respect that and not try to persuade or ridicule them for their decision.

Talking about peer pressure

If a child, young person, or adult tells you about a situation in which they’ve felt pressured, thank them for telling you. Stay calm even if you feel upset or angry. This shows them they did the right thing by telling you. 

Listen carefully to them. You can repeat back what you think you’ve heard to check you fully understand. Let them suggest solutions, with a bit of your help, rather than telling them what they must do. Think about your report systems and if you need to share information with your colleagues. This is essential if you think this might be a case of bullying.

Peer pressure is an inevitable part of life for adults and children alike, but with the right support, the individuals in your setting will know what to do when they face it.