The Benefits of Teen Peer Pressure

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The most influential people in a teenager’s life are, you guessed it, other teenagers. For many teenagers, the pandemic has significantly disrupted an essential stage of their development: interacting with their peers. Peer influence at this age is powerful – powerfully good or powerfully bad, especially when it comes to drugs, alcohol use, and bullying. But how do you harness the prosocial potential of adolescent peer pressure?

There has been much discussion and media attention surrounding what has been deemed by the US Surgeon General and other reputable entities to be the current “youth mental health crisis” – and rightly so. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated statistics on young people‘s mental wellbeing, with one in three students reporting lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness. However, the challenge of successfully raising a child to adulthood unscathed is not unprecedented.

Even though it’s been over a decade since I raised a teenager, one thing is still true. It’s hard – really, really hard. I remember reading an anonymous quote years ago, “Raising teenagers is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.” Did I mention raising teenagers is tough?

When my son was a teenager, I felt like I was strapped into an endless, never-ending roller coaster ride. PS — I’m not a fan of roller coasters. The characteristics associated with adolescence can be difficult to manage day in and day out. These include bad temper, self-absorption, self-consciousness, emotional lability, clumsiness, aggression, unpredictability, low frustration tolerance, poor impulse control, taking increased risk and challenge, to name a few.

We seem to forget, however, that during adolescence the brain undergoes an enormous amount of change. Traditionally, we have attributed adolescent behavior almost entirely to hormones and puberty, but we have since learned that much of the growth and transformation occurs neurologically in the brain between the ages of 10 and 24. Behaviors in adolescence are attributable to these neurological changes. .

Even though we would love nothing more than for our teenagers to be easy-going angels, they must go through this vital stage of their development. According to neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, “The biological function of adolescence is the creation of a sense of self. Adolescents achieve this by creating new allegiances independent of their parents – which is why their friendships suddenly become so viscerally important.

So what can parents do to help their child navigate successfully through the developmental stage of adolescence, especially in the midst of a national mental health crisis? Do they have no choice but to surrender to this stage of development, attach themselves to the roller coaster and hope for the best? Or is there, instead, a way of working with biology?


Through LifeBridge Community Services’ Urban Scholars program, parents can facilitate and encourage peer interaction in environments where healthy adolescent influence, positive behaviors, social acceptance and friendship are encouraged. The premise of Urban Scholars is to foster resilience and prosocial behaviors – behaviors that are constructive and beneficial to society as a whole.

Offered free to families in Bridgeport, our after-school and summer program provides a fun and safe space for kids ages 11-15 to thrive. Young people engaged in our program can access various activities such as visual arts, digital media, robotics, sports and fitness, dance and music. But the real impact happens on a social and emotional level. Positive relationships with support people contribute significantly to adolescent mental well-being.

All of our instructors and staff serve as mentors and are trained in social and emotional learning concepts and skills. Participants learn to cooperate effectively with their peers, to make responsible social decisions, to make constructive contributions, and to acquire the skills needed to succeed in school and in life. When they visit our establishment, we say to parents: “Our goal is not to make your child the best dancer or artist. Our goal is to help your child become the best person.

For more information about our program, call (203) 368-5548 or email [email protected]

Edith Boyle is president and CEO of LifeBridge Community Services in Bridgeport.

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