PEER PRESSURE

As teens strive to develop their own identities, parents frequently start to feel that their influence diminishes. Parents often mention the major influence peers have on the decisions that their teens make.

Of course the subject of sex is a very important one here. Some of the main reasons sexually active teens give for first having sex are being "ready" and/or that they had met the "right person." Yet, a survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen magazine indicates that although the teens offer these reasons, many of the same teens admitted to giving in to external pressures by their partner and their friends.

So whatís a parent to do to counteract these pressures?


Talk to Your Teens
REMEMBER:
If you donít talk, theyíre going to get the information somewhere else. That somewhere else is very likely to include their peers who are often high on the list of sources, closely followed by the media!

Mother is sitting, touching daughterís hand while talking to her. Most parents would not choose for peers or the media to be their childís main source of information. Yet teens report that they want their parents to talk to them more about the tough issues, and sex is high on their list. To open up the conversation about sex, check out Advice from Parents for ideas.
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How to Say "No"

Somber-looking girl is walking away from somber-looking boy who has his arms crossed. One of the big reasons why many teens may have sex before they actually feel ready or may even desire to is their feeling of inability to say ďNO.Ē According to the National Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention, 6 in 10 teens who have had sex say they wish they had waited. Help your teen consider some of the possible ways they can respond when they experience pressure to have sex.

Hereís a list of answers that high school age teens who have discussed with their parents have found useful to use when theyíre feeling pressured:
  • If you care about me, youíll respect my feelings and stop pressuring me.
  • I donít have to do anything I donít want to do.
  • My feelings wonít last nearly as long as some STDs or HIV/AIDS.
  • My feelings right now are telling me to go home.
  • If you really loved me, you wouldnít ask me to do things Iím uncomfortable with.
  • I donít want to see you anymore if thatís all you care about.
  • There are other ways to learn about sex besides doing it.
  • I decide whatís right for me and I canít be talked into doing something I donít want to do.
  • Donít you care about my feelings too? Lay off the pressure and let me decide what is right for me.
  • You canít guarantee that nothing will happen. But, I can by not having sex with you.
  • The day will come when Iím ready for sex, but itís not today.
  • Sex doesnít make a relationship stronger. What it does is complicate things.
  • Stop trying to pressure me into having sex with you. Itís so not cool.
  • You get so easily excited. Maybe we should cool it for a while.
  • I am waiting to have sex with someone I can spend my life with. Weíre too young to decide that right now.
  • If you love me as much as you say, youíll respect my feelings.
  • If the only reason youíre with me is to have sex, I guess our relationship really doesnít mean that much to you.
  • I donít care if everybody is doing it; I only care about this body.
  • Maybe I let you touch me before, but now I changed my mind. I donít want to take that risk again. Thereís too much I want to do with my life.


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Hold a Brainstorming Session with Your Teen

Helping your teen brainstorm solutions to difficult situations before they actually find themselves in that situation can be very helpful. This is a good opportunity to share your feelings and family values with your child and discuss his/her feelings and ideas. Once your child is actually placed in the situation, things can happen quickly and ďin the heat of the momentĒ itís going to be hard for them to think logically and clearly about what actions to take. Your conversations can be critical in preparing your teen to handle these difficult situations.
Discuss some different situations that could happen where your teen is placed in a position of being pressured. Here are a few sample situations:
  1. A boy (or girl) you like very much invites you to their house to do some homework. When you get there, you find itís just the two of you. The parents arenít home and no one else from your class is coming over to join in the homework session. (S)he suggests that you go up to their bedroom to do the assignment.

  2. You and your boy(girl)friend are coming home from a movie. Youíre in the car alone and your friend tells you that youíve been going together for a few months now and they want to take this relationship to a new level. What can you do?

  3. Someone you know from school has invited you and the person youíve been going out with for a while to a party. When you get there everyone is drinking and making out. You notice that some couples are going into the bedrooms of the house. There are no parents home. What would you do?

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Use Media as a Conversation Starter

Sample questions you can consider with your teen include:
  • In real life, what might be the consequences of this characterís actions Consider, for example, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancy. Also consider the emotional involvement, either partnerís expectations/feelings and possible feelings afterward.

  • Pretend you are both the script writers for this movie; try to imagine how to make this movie entertaining without the scenes involving sex.
Your teen will no doubt see many examples in the media where one person pressured the other to have sex. Most often what follows is a mad passionate scene where the pressure led to sex. In fact, often it was unnecessary to know much of anything about the partner, only that they were interested in having sex. It may seem that giving in to pressure is the expected thing to do!

The media give you many opportunities to start a conversation about pressure and how to handle it. Because the situation is impersonal (e.g. it happened to the TV or movie character), it can be easier to discuss.

Check out the section on Conversation Starters for more ideas.


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What If?

While most of us would like to make sure that our children waited to have sex, saying ďNOĒ to sex isnít a reality for all teens.

THE FACTS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell us that data based on their 2009 survey involving more than 16,000 high school students throughout the country shows that:
  • Nearly half of all teens report having had sex at some time.
  • More than one third are currently sexually active (that is, they have had sex in the past three months)
  • Less than 2/3 of sexually active teens have used a condom the last time they had sex
  • Only 1 in 5 used birth control pills the last time
Now consider this:
  • 3 in 10 girls in the U.S. get pregnant at least once by age 20
  • 1 in 4 sexually active teens will get an sexually transmitted disease every year
For more information, check out the Fast Facts offered by the National Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/FastFacts_YRBS2009.pdf

WON'T THEY GET IDEAS IF I TALK?

Contrary to popular belief, telling your children about contraception isnít going to lead them to go right out there and ďdo it!Ē Studies of comprehensive sex education programs that tell teens how to protect themselves if they should decide to become sexually active are clear in their results. Research results show that these programs:
  • Do NOT INCREASE the numbers of teens who start having sex after they hear this information
  • DO NOT lower the age at which teens start having sex
  • DO NOT increase the frequency of sex or the numbers of sex partners among those teens who are sexually active
To read more about this issue, check out the Advocates for Youth website: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=450&Itemid=336

WHAT CAN A PARENT SAY?

Again, the media can be a friend in your conversation. As we see in many scenes, the mention of sex or the least bit of pressure can lead to the couple being found in bed in the next scene. Rarely is protection mentioned as an issue of concern.
  • Ask about the reality of this scene; could this ever happen in real life
  • What might make this scene less entertaining afterward? (Discuss consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, emotional consequences.)
  • Talk about whatís missing in this scene. (e.g. if they were going to have sex, what did they need to consider? Was there any conversation about protection.
  • Might these partners have been prepared in any way for this encounter? (Fo example, the male bringing a condom in his wallet and/or the female bringing a male or female condom in her purse.)
  • What might the person being pressured say in order to insist that protection be used?
  • What should that person have done if no protection was available? (Emphasize the great risks of going ahead anyway.)
Talk through with your child some of their options for protection should they decide to become sexually active. To help you in this conversation, check out the section, Talk about Sex, Safer Sex.


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