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BATTLING THE DRUGS
Aug 03, 2017 at 11:02

Counsellor Nivedita Singh answers your queries about relationships, family, school and life

Presently, so many children and adults in India, as well as abroad, are affected by the problem of drugs. Despite many efforts of awareness, people, especially students, seem to be caught in its grasp.For most, the cause is peer pressure.Despite such known negative consequences,peer pressure seems to be winning. In such a situation, how do you suggest children should combat peer pressure and drugs?’

Wanting to be more like your peer/friends, is a normal part of being a teenager. A large portion of teenage behavior is shaped by a desire to belong, and to be accepted by your peers. Just for your information, peer influence isn’t always about doing something against your will. It could be something as commonplace or even positive, as choosing the same clothes, hairstyle or jewelry, as your friends, listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows, changing the way you talk, or the words and phrases you use. As a result of peer influence, you might be inspired to become more assertive, try new activities, or get more involved with studies and extracurricular activities.

Peer pressure is when you feel compelled to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do, because you feel pressured to do so, for the fear of being excluded, ignored, ragged or bullied. As a part of being a human, we all have a need to feel accepted and valued by our friends, and this need is at its peak during adolescence.

Peer pressure can lead to indulgence in behaviors, which are antisocial, risky, and addictive; like compulsive lying, stealing, shoplifting, bullying, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, unwanted and/or unprotected sex, watching pornography etc.

Research shows, that some children are more likely to be negatively influenced by peers. These could be children coming from a difficult abusive childhood, or broken families, with no love or feeling of belongingness and protection, children with low or poor self-esteem, children who are under tremendous pressure to perform but are unable to live up to the expectations of self and others, as well as those who feel they have few friends. Such children might feel that the only way they’ll be included, loved and accepted, in social groups, is through acts of daredevilry, or by taking on the behavior and attitudes of the group.

Coping well with peer influence is about getting the right balance between being yourself and fitting in with your group. Some ways in which you can achieve this are as follows:

  • Don’t buy the line, that everyone’s doing it. The truth is, everyone’s NOT doing it.
  • Just because your friends have not been caught, does not mean you will be lucky to get away too.
  • Just ‘trying’ it once can lead to wanting more, as some of these substances are highly addictive and become easy crutches to lean on when feeling stressed.
  • Get away from the pressure zone. Leave the scene make your exit.
  • Find a friend who shares your values, and back each other up.
  • Focus on the short term and long term consequences of your actions, instead of just dwelling on the here and now.
  • Seek support. Talk out any peer pressure you’re experiencing with other friends, who are also feeling the squeeze.
  • If your friends are always pushing you to do something you’re not comfortable with, remember that true friends love you for who you are, not who they want you to be. Don’t be scared to lose them.
  • Practice assertiveness. Make eye contact and say a firm “No”. This is INITIALLY, not easy but, doable. All you need is practice. Role-play the behavior. Practice saying ‘No’ within your comfort zone, over small things, till you have the confidence to say it in larger groups, over bigger issues.
  • Adolescence presents many life challenges for teens. Keeping the lines of communication open with parents/teachers/ mentors/ role models, is essential to help teenagers avoid high-risk situations. When in doubt, reach out, talk, share and discuss.

Although peer pressure has always been a part of the adolescent challenges, the concern has immense value in today’s day and age of 24×7 connectivity, and access to each other, across various platforms. The pressure, therefore, does not start and end at school, or merely when socialising with peer, but is a constant one. The access to opportunities is also not as limited as it was, even five years back. Risky behaviours can happen through visual posts on WhatsApp and Messenger services, and access to substance can be through the unlikeliest of contacts/friends.

In a scenario like this, the choices you make have to be thought through. You have to be prepared to brace yourself, and resist the near epidemic status, drug abuse is achieving among the youth across the country

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