How to Handle Peer Pressure: 13 Genius Ways Your Teen Can Get Out of a Tight Spot
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Your teen finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation where there’s drinking, drugs or they’re feeling pressure to have sex and, not knowing how to handle it or say no, they simply cave in.
I get it. Being a teenager is hard. And, as a mom of three, I’ve had enough conversations with my kids to understand how they feel when they’re in a tight spot.
What they don’t want is to appear lame, prudish or uncool if they say “no.” They don’t want to be rejected by their friends (or boyfriend or girlfriend) or hurt their friend’s feelings. They don’t want to be taken off the invite list. And, they don’t want to be pegged as someone who doesn’t know how to have any real fun.
What they do want is to feel included and accepted by their friends and part of the crowd. And, oftentimes, rather than standing in their convictions (which can be really tough for some teenagers), they succumb to peer pressure at the expense of compromising their beliefs, values, morals and well-being, not to mention having to deal with the possible wrath of their parents if/when they find out.
Peer pressure is a real struggle for a lot of teens. In fact, according to one study, more than 90 percent of teens claim they’ve been influenced by peer pressure.
Rather than sending our kids into the world to face difficult situations on their own, we need to equip them with the tools (quite possibly an arsenal) to face peer pressure head-on.
Here are a few clever tips on how to handle peer pressure, how to put the power back into your teen’s hands and how to get them out of a tight spot – without losing their “cool factor.”
How to Handle Peer Pressure: 13 Genius Ways Your Teen Can Get Out of a Tight Spot
#1 Say “No” Like You Mean It
When the pressure is on regardless of whether it’s to smoke weed, drink, do other drugs or have sex, oftentimes a direct and assertive “no” can be the best approach. Not all teens have the confidence to stand strong in their convictions. But the good news is, the more they do it, the more comfortable and better they’ll become at it. (Heads up: use this tactic and you might just earn the respect of your friends.) Here are a few strong “no” comebacks:
“Thanks, I’ll pass.”
“Nah, I’m not into that.”
“I just don’t need it to have fun.”
“Thanks, but it’s really not my thing.”
“Thanks, but I can have fun without that.”
How to handle peer pressure to have sex “NO” responses:
“I’m not interested in having sex.”
“I don’t need to give you an explanation. The answer is no.”
“I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I don’t want to have sex with you.”
#2 Toss in a Little Humor
Let’s face it, some friends can not only be convincing, they can be downright relentless in their pursuit to get you to try or do something you don’t want to do. Rather than fighting force with force, back off a bit and toss in a little humor to ease the tension. You’ll sound a lot more relaxed and easygoing, but you’ll still get your point across without sounding too stuffy or prudish. With a little chuckle, try saying something like:
“Yeah, and if my parents find out, you’ll never see me again.”
“Dude, you know I can’t handle stuff like that. I’d be on the floor.”
“Thanks, I like my lungs just the way they are.”
“Thanks, I don’t need that stuff to get a little crazy. You know me… I act crazy already.”
#3 A Believable Reason Works Like a Charm
Others will have a hard time convincing you to jump into something you’re not willing to do if you shoot a very logical, believable come back their way.
“My coach will kick me off the team if he finds out. I can’t take the risk.”
“Nope. I’m planning on applying for internships/jobs next month and since a lot of them require a drug test, I don’t want to take the chance.”
“I have to study for a big test all day tomorrow and I can’t do that after a night of drinking or getting high.”
“I can’t. I’m training for a marathon and I don’t want it messing up my time.”
#4 Blame It On Your “Strict” Parents
My kids know, unequivocally, that they can always use me as an excuse if they’re feeling pressured. Even if they make me out to be the strictest parent on the planet, I don’t care as long as it helps get my kids out of a tight spot.
“I can’t. My parents will kill me.”
“My parents wait up for me. If I walk in stoned or drunk, I’ll be grounded for life.”
“I’d like to hang out, but my parents are making me go to this family thing.” Sorry.”
#5 Use the “I Have Other Plans” Excuse
Your friends are getting together on Friday night and there’s been talk that there will be alcohol there. You don’t consider yourself a prude, but it’s just not something you’re totally comfortable with. Rather than putting yourself in that situation, save face by bowing out gracefully.
“That sounds fun, but my family is visiting my grandparents that night.”
“I can’t. I made other plans with my friends from church (or any club, organization, team, etc.)”
“I can’t. I’ve been invited to a friend’s house to hang out and watch a movie. Maybe another time.”
#6 Use the “I’ll Think About It” Tactic
When you’re feeling stuck and unsure what to say, buy yourself some time by delaying your response. Quite often, if you continue to use this tactic, your friends and/or acquaintances will eventually get the point and stop asking.
“I’m not sure I can. I’ll let you know.”
“Sounds fun. Let me think about it.”
“Maybe… I’ll let you know.”
#7 Toss Out the “I Have Way Too Much to Do” Excuse
Whether you blame your inability to go somewhere on a huge science project that’s due next week, a bunch of chores your mom wants you to get done or a big math test you have to study for, this excuse is one you should keep in your arsenal when the pressure is on.
“I have a huge test on Monday that I’m not ready for. I’ll have to pass tonight.”
“I wish I could, but if I don’t get my science project done, I’m going to fail that class.”
“My dad is making me help him clean out the garage. I wish I could get out of it, but I can’t.”
#8 Play the Sick Card
Playing the sick card is a great way to avoid going somewhere you don’t want to go because it can’t be disputed. Plus, no one wants to be around someone who isn’t feeling well.
“I’d love to, but I’m feeling pretty awful. I wouldn’t be much fun tonight.”
“You guys have fun without me. I’m going to lay low. I feel crummy.”
“Thanks, but I must be coming down with something. I feel terrible.”
#9 Use the “I Tried It” Excuse
When all else fails, a little white lie just might do the trick.
“Bro, last time I did that, I felt awful. I can’t.”
“That stuff makes me so sick. I tried it and totally hated what it did to me.”
#10 Offer to Be the Designated Driver
One of the best ways to avoid being hammered by friends to drink or do drugs is to offer to be the designated driver. That way, you’re in complete control of the situation and you can confidently and realistically offer a valid excuse why you’re not chugging a beer. (The only downside to this is that making sure your friends get home safely after a night of partying can be a big responsibility – choose which friends you offer to drive carefully.)
“Thanks. I can’t. I’m on DD duty tonight.”
#11 Create an Action Plan with Your Parents
One of the tricks I used to use with my kids is that when they were at a party or in a situation that made them feel uncomfortable or even threatened, they would text me, (we used “it’s time” as our code words) and I would immediately know that I needed to pick them up. I would also call them so it sounded legitimate with their friends.
“My mom just called. I need to head home asap.”
“Hey, I have to leave. Something’s up at home. My mom is on her way to pick me up.”
#12 Make Your Exit
When peer pressure becomes too much or you feel uncomfortable being surrounded by people who are drinking, smoking or doing other drugs, it might be time to make your exit. You are under no obligation to stick it out, to stay or pretend as though you’re having a good time.
Find your way to the door and simply leave. Whether you hop in the car and drive yourself home or call your parents, an Uber or a friend to pick you up, don’t succumb to the awful feeling of being somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Remember, your true friends will understand and support you if you decide to leave. Those who don’t aren’t really your friends. Say something like:
“Thanks for having me, but I’m going to head out. I have a lot going on tomorrow.”
“Hey, it’s been great, but I have to run. I have somewhere else to be.”
#13 Find New Friends
Of all the clever ways to handle peer pressure, the best way might be to simply find new friends.
It’s been said that real friends don’t make you do things that are not in your best interest or that are dangerous or wrong. And, it’s true.
Real friends (and boyfriends/girlfriends) won’t pressure you into taking part in risky behavior. Real friends won’t ostracize you if you back out of doing something you don’t want to do. Real friends will understand and support your decisions, even if they don’t align with theirs.
If your friends, acquaintances, boyfriend or girlfriend is continually pressuring you to engage in activities that simply aren’t in your comfort zone, it’s time to seek out new friends (or a new boyfriend or girlfriend) who respect you enough to understand and support your values and principles.