Wednesday, 20 June 2012

IT’S MY LIFE…..dealing with peer pressure!

Nivedita’s little boy is approaching his teens and this has her all worried and stressed out as she is anxiously anticipating adolescent behaviour and issues from her son who ‘till yesterday was just a cute baby boy’. When asked why she was so worried, she says, ‘ I know teens will get stubborn, fall prey to wrong company, start bad habits and be difficult to communicate with, and I don’t know how I will handle all this’.

Well, Nivedita need not be so anxious. Instead of being worried or tightly strung up, it is better to be aware of this stage and prepare the adolescent for it too. That’s all it requires, a ‘Teen mentor’!

According to Sigmund Freud, adolescence is marked with ‘egos’ that leads to some level of superiority complex and inferiority complex as well. Author of the book, Stress In Young People, Sarah McNamara says, “Because adolescents have greater levels of logical and critical thinking and problem solving they are involved in establishing social identity. It is not only a time of opportunity but also of vulnerability to risk behaviours which can have lifelong consequences, especially for health.”

So the trick is to start preparing for the adolescent period early on, as those who have a healthy relationship with parents and teachers are able to stay away from harm, whereas others succumb to it and engage in behaviours that jeopardise their healthy development.

Human life is a continuous thread which each of us spins to his own pattern; rich and complex in meaning. There are no natural knots in it. Yet knots form, nearly always in adolescence: Edgar Z. Frydenberg.

Teenage and adolescence has its own reputation and that is exactly what today’s adolescent needs to break out of. Prove the world wrong about their impression about adolescents! Adolescence is a period of stress and those who are unable to deal with the stress fall prey to peer pressure and its associated ‘bad habits or bad behaviours’.
Today a child is manifold more intelligent and smarter than the previous generation; he/she can prepare for the adolescent stage which actually is just a transition stage from childhood to adulthood, in which the kid already feels like an adult and the adult still treats him like a child!

Teenagers need to focus on developing life skills and emotional intelligence, the ability to judge what’s good and not so good for them, instead of falling prey to other people’s opinions and suggestions. 90% of all teenagers fall prey to peer pressure and related bad habits like smoking, drinking, sex experimentation, lack of interest in studying, bullying others by challenging them to do unlawful acts and even to the extent of suicide.

So how can teenagers stay away from peer pressure? First comes an understanding that peer pressure is just another form of bullying in which the bully is your friend! Take hold of your life and where it is headed. It’s your life and no one should be ruling it but you.

Secondly, when in doubt- don’t do!

Thirdly, adolescents must get ‘social competence training’. Today there are so many self help books, websites; blogs etc that can help you focus on how to deal with stress management, self-esteem, problem-solving, substances and health, assertiveness and social networks. Check out the work of an international teen mentor, Josh Shipp.

Fourthly start having ‘private conversations’ with yourself every day. Sounds silly, but is extremely helpful in defining self esteem. After all, people who lack in self esteem are more liable to fall prey to peer pressure. When you have private conversations with yourself, try and identify what your inner self is saying about you.  Are you always thinking negative or positive? Then talk to yourself and change from negative to positive. ‘I can!’ ‘I will!’ ‘I am sure!’ and ‘It’s my life, I will make it good!’ are all statements that will help.

The next dilemma that most teenagers face when it comes to peer pressure is how to say no to friends! In such a case you need to cultivate assertiveness. Assertiveness is really about being fair- to yourself and all others.  Assertiveness means realizing that your feelings are neither more nor less important than those or other people, but rather they are equally important. Assertiveness helps you to talk about yourself without self-consciousness, to accept compliments, to disagree politely, to say no and to be relaxed around other people even when you differ or disagree with what they believe. And this is so important when dealing with peer pressure. 

Lastly, build a lasting bond with your parents, at least one teacher in school and one friend that you can share everything with. Adolescence is a natural period of stress and these people will then become your ‘stress busters’ and safeguards, constantly guiding you when you go off course in your decisions or behaviour. Peer pressure is nothing but yet another form of stress and you need these ‘stress busters’ when under pressure. Adults too play a crucial role in helping teens cope with peer pressure and other adolescence related stress. What adults can do is, accept that the child is now an adult and talk to him and relate to him accordingly. Instead of always shouting or lecturing him try ‘teen whispering’, which means having a quiet, discussion in which both the parent and the teen puts forward their point of view and way ahead.

When faced with peer pressure teens can use the fingers-thumb test to decide whether to succumb to the pressure or not. This test uses each digit of your hand and helps you self question and decide, so take the test when your peers put you to test!

Pointer finger- We always use this to point at others, so ask yourself, ‘If I fall prey to peer pressure will I be headed in the right direction or will I always have fingers pointing at me and labelling me for my incorrect decision?’

Tall man- ‘I want to stand tall and be the best in my life, so then what my peers are telling me to do, will it make me best in my eyes or only in theirs?’

Ring man- stands for love and family, so before taking the decision under peer pressure, ask yourself, ‘What would my family want me to do?’

Little finger- ‘Have I thought about the minute repercussions to my health and reputation if I fall prey to this peer pressure?’

Thumb- A thumbs up says that you took a decision after weighing all the pros and cons and after considering the advice of all important people- peers, stress busters (family, teacher, friend) and yourself.

When flying between the Earth and the Moon, the Apollo spacecraft was off course more than 90 percent of the time. On their lunar voyages, the crew would constantly bring the craft back to its intended trajectory. They were not on a perfect path but a critical path. Because they knew their intended target they could correct their spacecraft whenever it wandered off- Anon

Teenagers are on a voyage to adulthood; they will veer off course like the Apollo but we need to know that as long as they come back to the intended trajectory which in their case is a healthy, happy life, we must be there to correct their spacecraft as and when required. No teenager will be perfect. What is critical is that they are given a perfect chance.