Avoiding The Perils Of Peer Pressure

For many teens, avoiding the lure of sex and drugs can be like walking through a minefield. These parents get tips on helping their kids cope with peer pressure from The Saturday Early Show's Mike Riera.

A Lesson For The Lockerroom

Dear Mike,

I have a 14-year-old son entering high school next year. He is a happy and healthy only child. My son plays sports and the rumor is that drinking is the thing to do to be accepted on the teams. Any advice on this subject?


Marcia, you're not alone with this. The number one fear of parents of adolescent boys is drug and alcohol use. Interestingly, the number one fear of parents of adolescent girls is teen pregnancy followed very closely by drugs and alcohol.

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This is the time you as a parent need to bring the topic forward and talk about it with your son. And talking about it means really listening. Bring it up to him. He's not going to look like he enjoys it, but he just might be relieved when you bring the topic up.

Show him that you're comfortable listening to what's going on in his life. It's a
chance for you to affirm your values. Hopefully, you've been having these conversations along the way, but you want to let him know you don't want him to drink and you don't want him to experiment with drugs.

You have to communicate a reason why he shouldn't be drinking or using drugs, more than the law. It has been shown statistically that the earlier in life that someone starts drinking the greater the chance of addiction. Also it's a time when a person develops coping mechanisms. You learn how to be anxious, you learn how to get through confusion. You don't want alcohol or drugs to become a coping mechanism for you.

Negative Influence Is Relative

Dear Mike,

I have a 17-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. Our daughter has always been more adventurous and lately has ben influencing her brother's behavior, setting him up with sexually active girls and connecting him with a crowd that has access to drugs. No matter how earnestly we talk to them, there's no changing this. My daughter feels she's doing her brother a favor, and he is grateful. How do I handle this?


This is a tricky one because they're doing what every parent wants their kids to do: they are bonding. But unfortunately, it's a negative bond. I would recommend that you sit down now with each of them individually, talk to them about their strengths, about their weaknesses and why you don't want them to do this.

You want to treat your kids fairly -- which is not always equally -- because the sister has certain strengths and the brother has other strengths. What I would do is write a letter summarizing each conversation and send both kids the letter so they can see they're being treated fairly by their parents. This isn't going to change their behavior overnight, but it's probably going to short-change the amount of experimentation.

The bottom line is parents can't control their kids. They can focus on their positive behaviors and their strengths. And as a result, the kids will probably rise to that and find another way to bond to one another in a positive way.

Are Older Friends A Bad Influence?

Dear Mike,
My 15-year-old son has become friends with a 25-year-old man. My son is very defiant when I tell him he shouldn't be riding around with the guy. My son has had two episodes with pot and swears it is not this guy's fault.

Bewildered in Burrillville

If your kids are hanging out with people who bring out the worst in them, explain to them it's not about this other guy, it's about your child's behavior. Try saying "You're smoking pot, you aren't taking care of yourself. I need you to walk the straight and narrow. I need to be able to trust that you aren't susceptible to these influences." It takes the onus off the friend.