“Molly told me that if I want her to be my friend, I can’t be friends with Sally anymore.”
“He said I am the only kid in the world who has never seen that T.V. show.”
“James said a really bad word today.”
Peer pressure is very real. It happens at any age and can come from a variety of sources. As Christian parents, we know that God calls us to be “in the world but not of it,” but this balancing act is hard even for us to master. Our job is to help our children manage that balance without allowing the scales to tip in the direction of the world. As we send our children off to school, it is hard not to cringe as we think of the things to which they will be exposed. Fortunately, our faith equips us to live without fear as we trust in God and make time for daily spiritual tune-ups. Here are some things you can do to help shore your child up against the influences of peer pressure.
Say Good Morning to God Together
First and foremost, take the time to start your child’s day with a word from the Lord. Read the Bible together. It doesn’t have to be a lot or for very long, but enough to allow God’s word to penetrate her life and provide the grounding she needs for the day. Help her to identify one simple spiritual truth from the text. Here are some ways you can incorporate Bible reading into your morning:
- Read it in bed with her before she rises
- Read it at the breakfast table as she eats her cereal
- Listen to the Bible on CD as you drive to school
Anticipate Problems in the Day Ahead
Give voice to what you think might be hard for her during the day ahead. Don’t be afraid to verbalize what she already feels. You can say something like: “Today, Molly may again say mean things to you about Sally behind her back. We know that this kind of talk is not honoring to Sally or God. I know you may feel torn in two directions.” Discuss her desire to fit in and her desire to follow the Lord. Normalize this pull (even Paul struggled with this dilemma – see Romans 7:15-19) and problem solve with her about how to handle it if the situation arises (for example, remind her, “we are more than conquerors. . .” Romans 8:37).
Be a Prayer Partner
Before she leaves for school (or gets out of the car), ask her if you could pray for her about anything while she is away. Asking this question communicates your spiritual partnership with her as she goes off into the world for the day. Most importantly, this step leaves the door open for continuing your faith discussions later after school. You can greet her and say, “I prayed for you about _________ today. How did that go?”
Be a Sounding Board
If your child brings up events related to peer pressure from her day, ask her to compare what happened to what she knows of the Lord and His standards. Make it an open and mutual discussion based on inquiry rather than a lesson or lecture on one of the Ten Commandments. Avoid statements like, “In our family we believe . . .” While this is true, you want to encourage your child to have a real and personal faith that is built on a relationship with her Lord, not one whose foundation is simply the prevailing mindset of her family. Instead, try saying, “Lets think. What does God have to say about that?”
You can even have this discussion in response to incoming messages from the media. Mute the T.V. and ask your child how the message of a previous commercial or T.V. show supported or competed with God’s standards.
In the event your child makes a mistake and chooses the ways of the world over the ways of God, extend grace and forgiveness in response to remorse and regret. Let her identify the negative outcomes that resulted from her choices and help her brainstorm about ways she can repair the situation if necessary. Remind her that the penalty for that sin has been paid and God remembers it no more. As her parent, you can do the same.
Say Goodnight to God Together
End your day with a prayer time with your child. Incorporate the events and discussions you have had during the day into your prayer. You can use this as an opportunity to model confession and offer prayers on behalf of those she encountered during the day.
This daily dialogue, all or in part, can help your child’s faith take root. While we cannot completely insulate our children from the peer pressures around them, we must do our part to make sure that we provide daily opportunities for their faith to be tuned up and tuned into the ways of the Lord.