How can I help my child . . .

  • recognize and handle peer pressure
  • make safe, healthy, responsible choices

Adolescence is a time when teens are making more and more choices on their own.  While they still need guidance from their parents, they begin to lean more towards their peer groups for guidance on what to do and what choices to make.  These choices may include difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, sex, smoking and other things that can impact their whole life.  To help prevent teens from succumbing to peer pressure, the adults in their lives can help them develop skills for  responsible decision making skills.

According to CASEL (Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning) responsible decision making is “the ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations.”  This includes the capacity to consider safety (mental and physical) and think through the positive and negative outcomes of ones’ choices.  

Some key components of responsible decision making are:

  1. Demonstrating curiosity and open-mindedness
  2. Learning how to make a good judgment after analyzing information
  3. Thinking through the consequences of one’s actions
  4. Thinking about ways to solve personal and social problems
  5. Using critical thinking both inside and outside of the classroom
  6. Thinking about how one can contribute to their own well-being as well as their family’s and their communities.

Why it Matters

Learning how to make good decisions is important because teens regularly face pressure from peers and the outside world. Some studies suggest that some of the anxiety and depression that many teens experience is due to their inability to think critically for themselves and make choices that positively affect their lives. In addition, when teens have a chance to direct their life through their choices, it is an opportunity for growth and maturity.  This skill is essential as they transition to adulthood.

Read through the following statements and identify which ones you feel your teen is strong in and which ones may need to work on:

Check the statements that are true about communication and relationships within your family and with your teen. 

MY TEEN

Thinks through how their decisions affect their life
Thinks through how their decisions affect others
Brainstorms the pros and cons of a decision
Feels comfortable making their own decisions on a variety of topics
Comes to me before and/or after making a decision
Can identify and explain good or poor decisions
Reflects on how their decisions affected them and others
Repairs. Makes amends after making a decision that affects someone negatively
Thinks about how their decisions now will affect their future
Avoids making assumptions and gets curious about people and situations
Analyzes information, data and facts make a judgment
Recognizes how they can affect their own well-being
Recognizes how they can affect the well-being of those in their family
Recognizes how they can affect the well-being of their community

While it may be hard, allowing your teen to gradually make more and more decisions on their own will help them to learn how their actions affect themselves and others. However, they still need your support and guidance, so it will be important to discuss things with them either before or after making an important decision.  

Start the Conversation:

  • Prior to making a decision
  • How will this impact others?
  • Is it worth it?
  • Why do you want to make this choice?
  • Was this a strong choice?
  • Will this help me?

One way to help teens internalize the lessons learned from making a decision is to help them reflect.  You can do this by having them reflect on their choices using the following question or others that guide them towards realizing the impact has had. 

After making a decision

  • Why did you choose that? (in a non-blaming tone)
  • What could you have done differently?
  • Was that the best choice?  What might have been a better choice?

In addition to talking to your teen and processing decisions, there are other steps parents and caregivers can take to help their teen have good judgment and decision-making.   

Provide Guidance And Communication

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Identify The Problem

Help them explain the problem in their own words and talk about why it is challenging and/or risky.

Brainstorm Pros And Cons

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Create A Plan To Move Forward

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Discuss Potential Difficult Situations

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Be Available

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Teach About Peer Pressure

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Promote Good Self-Esteem

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Use Literacy And Media To Discuss Challenging Situations

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

Discuss Potential Difficult Situations

Talk about what makes a situation or decision risky.  Set clear expectations for the types of decisions they should make in different situations.

For more information about responsible decision-making and substance misuse, click here.

For more information about responsible decision-making and bullying, click here.

Activities

“What would you do?” Activity

One way to help coach your teen to make hard decisions is to do this activity that uses scenarios.  The following will give you some ideas on where to start, but you can create any situation you would like to discuss with your teen:

  • You see someone teasing a classmate in the hall on the way to lunch..  You know this person from your classes and see that he is feeling scared.  What would you do?
  • There is a group of kids smoking on a corner a few blocks from school.  On your walk home from school they call you over and ask you if you want to vape or smoke a cigarette.  What would you do?
  • You know a friend has a copy of an exam you have to take in Chemistry.  When she offers to give it to you, what would you do?

Family Contract

Some families choose to write up a contract that outlines rules and expectations for what to do or what to say when confronted with difficult decisions.  These topics could include, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, drunk driving and other illegal or high rish behaviors.  Instructions and a sample here: https://sackcoalition.org/family-contract/

Making a Difficult Decision Worksheet

This worksheet has a graphic organizer that walks teens through a decision they have to make by thinking about all the options and outcomes.  They can use this on their own or with a trusted adult as a guide to help them make a good choice. 

http://recapp.etr.org/recapp/documents/freebies/MkgDecisionWrk200211.pdf

Your teen’s school along with local community organizations and other parents are great places to connect with for additional ways to support your teen’s social development: 

  • Find out if your school has a program that helps students deal with peer pressure.
  • Help your child establish a connection with their guidance counselor. Set up a meeting or reach out by phone. Make sure your child feels comfortable going to their office when they have questions or concerns about decisions or peer pressure.
  • Join a local parent group on social media.
  • Stay connected to your teen’s friends’ parents so that you can communicate about what is happening in their peer groups.
  • Have conversations with the parents of your teen’s friends.  Communicate with them your family’s rules and decision-making style.  “When my child is at home we expect…..”
Social Emotional Learning

Self-Management

How can I help my child . . .

  • get/stay organized and manage their time responsibly?
  • take initiative and develop independence?, (communicate problems and ask for what they need, stay organized, and set and reach goals)
  • be responsible and reliable?
  • better manage stress and strong emotions?
Social Emotional Learning

Social Awareness

How can I help my child . . . 

  • recognize others’ emotions and develop empathy?
  • be aware of their own impact on others?
  • be open to and accepting of differences?
Physical Health and Nutrition

Sleep

  • How are teen sleep needs different than for other age groups?
  • What are the sleep recommendations for teens?
  • How can I help my child develop healthy sleep habits ?