Remember when you were in school and popularity or fitting in seemed so important? Peer pressure can encourage your children to make choices they normally wouldn’t make. Ultimately, however, your children are responsible for their choices whether or not peer pressure played a role. It’s in everyone’s best interest to prepare your children to do what is right – no matter how much their peers may pressure or tease them.
There’s a fun family devotional you can do to help begin the discussion about peer pressure. Tell your children the story of how Saul became king, found in 1 Samuel chapters 8-11. Focus especially on how the people wanted to be like everyone else (in the countries surrounding them) and have a king. Discuss with your kids why the Israelites might have wanted to be like the nations around them. Older children and teens may also want to discuss why with all of the many differences between nations, the Israelites focused on having a king.
With younger children, peer pressure should be discussed as wanting to be “just like your friends”. Older children are already aware of peer pressure, but it is helpful to discuss the meaning as well as possible pros and cons of peer pressure.
With younger children focus on verses like Proverbs 13:20 (whoever walks with the wise will become wise, etc.) and the importance of listening to friends when what they say is wise/matches what God has told us to do.
Older children and teens can handle a slightly more sophisticated discussion including other aspects like those found in Galatians 1:10 (seeking approval of man) and I Corinthians 15:33-34 (bad company ruins good morals).
Ask your kids how hard it is to avoid wanting to go along with the crowd/be like everyone else/peer pressure. What are some of the things they do when they are faced with a choice between doing what their friends are doing and doing what God wants them to do? Be aware at this age, they will potentially say all of the right things, but in reality be doing the exact opposite. It may help to give them appropriate examples or ask them for examples of when “other” kids struggle with peer pressure.
Give your children a large piece of paper and have them glue a paper bag to the sheet. They can add the title “My Bag of Tricks For Peer Pressure”. You may also want them to add one of the above verses or another verse on the topic to the paper.
With pre-readers talk about the “tricks” on the cards. Have them glue the cards to the paper and draw pictures of those tips. For older children, have them generate as many ideas as they can on their own to write on the cards and glue to the papers.
Here are some suggestions, if they run out of ideas:
• Memorize one of the Bible verses and say it to yourself whenever you are tempted.
• Practice saying, “No, thank you.” kindly, but firmly.
• Walk away.
• Just keep saying “No thank you” over and over.
• Have a secret signal with your parent(s) that means you are tempted by peer pressure and they need to come get you.
• Don’t hang out with people or in places where you might be tempted to do something ungodly.
• Remind yourself of all of the possible negative things that could happen when you give in and disobey God. (If you are really brave, share them out loud, because others may not want to give in either and will follow your lead.)
• Offer another choice that is godly to do instead.
• Remind yourself “everyone is doing it” is not true and you are not “the only one who isn’t doing it”.
• Make sure you are well rested, eat healthy foods at regular times, exercise, etc. It’s much easier to give in to temptation when you are hungry or tired.
• Make decisions before your peers ask you to do something about what you will and will not do (For example: “I won’t get drunk.).
• Don’t feel like you have to give a reason to say “No”. “No” is a complete sentence.
Your children may have lots of other great ideas. This list is not complete. It is merely given to help add to whatever ideas your kids may generate. Don’t end the discussion after this one devotional. Continue it periodically – even into adulthood. Regular reminders and strategy sessions can help your children make wiser, more godly choices – no matter what their friends and acquaintances are doing.