Peer pressure – it’s every parents nightmare. When our children are young, we have a large say in their lives. They look up to us with awe and love. When our children grow, they still love us, but rather than looking at mom or dad as their “idols” they turn to others. For many parents and teens this can lead to nightmare scenarios.

If you’re worried about peer pressure, teen cliques and how to deal with them, here are our top tips:

#1 – Reinforce your values as a family. Children have an inner need to belong to a group. By letting your child feel early on in life that your family is their own group, you create strong family foundations. Refer to your family as “the family name” to reinforce your values as a whole. For example – we are the Connors and “the Connors” don’t smoke or “the Connors” don’t use aggression to resolve problems.

If your children hear you saying these statements or similar from early on, they learn that they are indeed part of a bigger group – your family unit. Regularly speak to your children about the world and situations and your thoughts on those topics. By allowing your children to see how you view the world you give them a glimpse into what is important to the family as a whole.

#2 – Help their self-esteem. Teens often join cliques or are pressured into situations because they feel bad about themselves. While this isn’t always the case and sometimes teens just want to “fit in” or “be cool,” it’s often a factor. Let your teen know what their strengths are. When our children are little we often praise the many things they do – we clap when they take their first steps or say their first word. However, as our children grow our praise tends to diminish.

While you don’t have to clap for every little thing your teen does, they still need praise and to know they’re doing things right. Let your child know you’re proud of them and that you love them. Acknowledge their accomplishments. Some days the only positive thing you may find is the simple act of putting their dishes away, but by saying a simple “thanks, I appreciate you putting your plate away” you let them know that you notice even the small positive things they do.

If your child suffers from severe low self-esteem, it may be wise to seek help from a professional. Low self-esteem may lead to other issues such as depression and can wreak havoc in your teen’s life.

#3 – Don’t worry about the little things. While you have every right to be concerned if you feel your child is getting in with the wrong crowd, sometimes as parents we have a tendency to overreact. If your teen dyes their hair green, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing drugs or are ready to drop out of school. Speak to your child; it may be that they are simply experimenting or finding “their style.”

Teens get to a stage where they’re trying to find their feet and their independence in a grown-up world. It’s important to give them a little space to figure this out. It’s also important to trust that as a parent you have already set strong foundations for your child. Now may be time to sit back and show some faith in them.

However, if you do feel at any time that your teen is in trouble or has gotten into the wrong crowd, it is important to act on those feelings. No one knows your child better than you. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts as a parent and take action.