People, especially tweens, respond to peer pressure and behave differently in a “hot state” and a “cold state.”
When we are calm, we believe we will act rationally in an emergency. When we are in an emotional state, we usually follow emotions over logic. In order to prepare your tween to make decisions under peer pressure (in a “hot state”) you have to practice in a hot state.
For example, create an imaginary situation where your child is with Susie, Kanesha, and Maria (name three of her real friends), and one lights up a cigarette. You play the role of Susie and say, “Try it – it’s cool.” Help your child practice saying, “No, thanks, not for me.” Push her, tease her, plead with her, insult her, and do everything you can imagine the other kids will say. The more aggressive and more uncomfortable you make your child feel, the more effective it will be. It’s easy to resist in a cold emotional state, but people act entirely differently in a hot emotional state, so if you can get her to practice in a hot state (like feeling peer pressure), it may be more effective. If she doesn’t know what to say or how to answer, help her figure it out, and keep practicing until you are both confident in the result.
I also recommend role playing about sex. Set clear guidelines about what are acceptable activities for your child and what are not. Explain why: (1) Your religious beliefs, and (2) health reasons. Explain which specific diseases are transmitted through kissing, oral sex, and vaginal sex, and what happens when you get one of those diseases. Discuss contraception so she has no “contraception misconceptions.”
Understand that she might know all the facts, have rehearsed all the responses to pressure, and be a model of morality in a cold, logical state, but act differently when in a hot state. When she gets excited, she doesn’t think the same way. Especially for boys, when they get excited, they will say things and do things that will surprise even themselves the next day. Try to get your child in a hot state by embarrassing her and making her uncomfortable, and then rehearsing what to say.
Another area of practice, especially with daughters, is how to deal with unwanted advances. There are simple, non-violent self-defense techniques that can be used to gently but firmly push a date away. I also recommend some more serious rape-prevention self-defense instruction from a local martial arts school. Physical training in a self-defense clinic or class is also closer to hot state practice. When it comes to self-defense, it’s better to know it and not need it, than to need it and not know it.
For more advice on raising tweens that you might not find in typical parenting guides starting at under a dollar, click here to see your options.