September 16, 2013 —

In my small, tight-knit community of Hutchinson, Kan., “Salthawk” football is king. Every Friday night in the fall, our community comes together to cheer on our seven-time state champion high school football team. While football games can be a source of unity for many of our community members, it can also bring about new friends and new peer pressures for our teens.

Consider these scenarios: an athlete abusing medicine to numb their pain from an injury, teenage fans abusing alcohol and drugs at an after party to try and fit in or teens choosing to drive while under the influence of substances to make it home by curfew. Regardless of the scenario, it’s our responsibility as parents to ensure we are not only setting expectations with our children early on but consistently communicating those to our teen and discussing the potential consequences of their choices.

Below are a few tactics to help prevent your teen from engaging in peer pressure and risky behaviors on or off school property.

  • Develop their trust. Establish an open-door policy and encourage them to come to you with questions and concerns. It’s important that parents listen to what their teen is saying without interruption to build a foundation of trust.
  • Identify and talk through appropriate boundaries. Clearly communicate your behavioral expectations of them in social settings and prompt them to ask any questions to ensure transparency. Be upfront and let them know that substance abuse of any kind, even over-the-counter cough medicine abuse, is not acceptable behavior.
  • Be consistent. Monitor your teen’s activities, start regular conversations with them about what’s going on at school and reinforce your expectations. If your teen breaks the rules, be sure to consistently enforce the consequences in hopes of preventing them from breaking the same rule twice.
  • Devise exit strategies. Talk through potential scenarios with your teen (you can even use the above scenarios) and help them determine how to walk away from dangerous situations with their peers.  Establish a code word for them to use in uncomfortable situations and remind them that you can help, even if you aren’t physically there.
  • Explain the power of technology. Discuss how an inappropriate behavior at a party or a football game can easily be shared via text message or online through social networks – and once something has been shared, there’s no taking it back.

Have you talked to your teen about back-to-school peer pressures yet? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Take action and talk to your teen today. Share your conversation starters with us in the comments below!