Peer pressure is something that every child, especially teenagers, face, both directly from friends and peers, and also indirectly when they see other people doing something. Many teens struggle with resisting negative peer pressure and sometimes give in because they don't know how to say no without possibly losing friends or being considered "uncool." Organize a peer pressure retreat for a group of teens you know or work with, featuring activities that help teens understand and identify peer pressure and the best ways to combat it.
One way to introduce the topic of peer pressure is by creating examples of how teens can easily fall into peer pressure. When the kids first come in, let them mingle, sit and chat among themselves. Send one teen out of the room to go and get you something. When she leaves, tell the rest of the group that this is an experiment and ask them all to fold their hands on their heads and act as if everything is normal when the teen comes back into the room. If she asks what they are doing, just shrug and continue to act normal. Watch and wait to see what she does. If she does what everyone else does, you can use this as a starting point in a discussion on how teens often just do what everyone else does, sometimes without questioning the logic.
Identifying Peer Pressure
Peer pressure can be positive. A group of teens that volunteers at a local shelter every week can influence others to do the same, for example. To help the children identify the differences, write down a bunch of scenarios or examples of negative and positive peer pressure and place them in paper bags. Divide the teens up into pairs, each receiving a bag. The kids must quickly separate the negative and positive peer pressure cards. The first team to do so wins. Bonus points are given if they can come up with solutions to combat the negative peer pressure scenarios they were given. For another activity, you can set up a scavenger hunt with peer pressure scenario cards hidden all over the building. Each scenario is either negative or positive peer pressure. A wrong answer will lead them to a card that tells them to go back to start. A correct answer will lead them to their next scenario card until they reach the end.
Role-playing can be a powerful way to show teens how to resist and steer clear of peer pressure situations. Put the teens into groups and assign each a peer pressure scenario to act out. Choose scenarios that you know are relevant to the group of teens you are working with, whether it is peer pressure to have alcohol at a party or give the answers on a test to friends who have not studied. Encourage the kids to discuss what they thought of each skit, what is realistic about it and what might not be. If the kids do not agree with how the peer pressure situation was resolved, ask them what they think would be a better solution.
Have a contest where the teens have to come up with the most creative ways to say no to peer pressure. It can be anything, like coming up with the most ridiculous excuse for why they cannot sneak out and go to a party (i.e., my dog can't sleep without me and would follow me and how uncool would that be, with him slobbering over everyone at the party?). It could be the most sarcastic response or a "no" rap. Encourage them to let loose and be as creative as possible. The kids vote for the top three. You can also encourage positive peer pressure through team building activities where teammates have to encourage each other. Set up a challenging obstacle course outside but each team has to go through each section together and cannot leave anyone behind, or go for a challenging hike where the kids have to stay connected to each other in some way and reach the summit together.