What would your kid do if, while at a friend’s house, someone offered them a beer? What would your kid do if a friend started playing an inappropriate YouTube video and expected them to watch, too?
We all want our kids to make good decisions in the face of peer pressure. But for a 13-year-old or 17-year-old just trying to fit in, making good decisions can be a daily challenge.
As a small group leader for the past ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to walk with dozens of middle school and high school students as they navigate potentially compromising situations. Underage drinking, cheating on tests, watching inappropriate movies, pushing boundaries with a girlfriend . . . students are consistently facing peer pressure that can lead to poor decisions.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned working with students, it’s that they need a plan—an escape plan. They need to know how to escape those pressure-filled moments. Because the truth is, most teens don’t want to cave into peer pressure, they just don’t know how not to.
This is where you—the parent—come in. As a parent, you have the opportunity to work with your teenager to create an escape plan—a plan to help them avoid those poor decisions. Here’s what that escape plan might include . . .
For escaping the big situations—like a party that’s gotten out of hand or an inappropriate movie that just started playing—there’s the X-plan. If you’re not familiar with it, the X-plan encourages kids to text “X” to a parent if they find themselves in a compromising situation. When a parent gets that text, they know their kid needs to be picked up immediately. (Read more about the X-plan here.)
But what about escaping the spur-of-the-moment situations when there’s no time to send an emergency text? Like if a friend offers your kid a beer, asks them to help cheat on a test, or asks them to watch an inappropriate music video? A student only has a few seconds to respond in these situations.
For these moments, preparing a few “escape phrases” that a student can use in a pinch can be instrumental. And you can brainstorm with your kid what those escape phrases could be.
If your kid is still growing in their faith, convictions, and decision-making, the goal might be simply getting out of a tough situation. If a friend offers a cigarette, the escape phrase might be, “No thanks. My parents would be able to smell it on me and I’d never get away with it.” Or if a student is trying to get out of cheating, the escape phrase might be, “Sorry, if I get caught cheating even once I’m off the soccer team, and I can’t let my team down.”
If your kid is maturing in his or her faith, though, it may be time for them to more closely stand by their convictions and beliefs. If someone asks them to watch an inappropriate YouTube video, maybe their escape phrase is, “Sorry, I really try to avoid watching this kind of stuff. I just don’t see any upside to it. Can we watch something else?” Or if someone offers a beer, maybe their escape phrase is, “No thanks. I really don’t think it’s wise to drink alcohol in high school. I’m going to stick to soda tonight.”
Your teenager will be far more likely to resist peer pressure in a difficult situation if they’re prepared. And you have the chance to discuss with your teen what that escape plan looks like.
It may be tempting to assume that these ideas only apply to teens that are running with “the wrong crowd.” But the truth is, all students run into these situations every now and then. And it only takes one poor decision to send a kid down a destructive path.
Preparing an escape plan with your teenager probably won’t be easy. It’ll require time and effort on your part to get your kid to open up and have a conversation about this. And they’ll probably never come home and say, “Mom, I used one of the phrases in our escape plan and it worked!” But there will be situations that make your kid uncomfortable, and these phrases will come to mind. And it will have been worth it.