In this section, students explore their relationships with others. The activities focus on peer relationships and how peer pressure, influence, and acceptance affect their lives. There are also activities on refusal skills to help equip students with strategies for saying "no."
Note: When completing the digital activity, students will be asked to stop after each of the three Parts and wait until you tell them it’s okay to move on. Initiate discussions per suggestions below after completion of each part.
Before starting this activity, discuss the concepts of peer pressure and peer influence with your students. (See the Overview Booklet for information you can share with your students.) Emphasize how we often want to “fit in” and “be liked” by others, and how sometimes the easiest way to accomplish this is by behaving like everyone else. At times, that might mean behaving in a way we would rather not behave.
To reinforce the concept, read this example to your students: A new student comes into the class midway through the year. She notices that she is the only girl wearing a dress in the whole class. Although she likes to wear dresses, she shows up the next day, and all subsequent days, wearing pants.
Ask your students:
Share the digital activity link below with your students. Explain to them that they are going to fill out a checklist they will use to measure how peer pressure and influence might affect them. Ask them to complete Part One independently. Students will complete Part One and then wait until you tell them it’s time to move on to Part Two. Begin the discussion below after they have completed Part One.
When the students have finished Part One, gather as a class or in small groups, and encourage discussion. Ask students to think about these questions:
See if patterns emerge that indicate students’ sensitivity to peer pressure and peer influence. In particular, do the students see a strong tendency to want to be with other students who hold similar interests, values, etc., as themselves? Open the discussion and ask each group to report on some of the things they learned. In a wrap-up of Part One, acknowledge that the desire to be with those who are most like us is quite common. But also mention that there will always be some ideas and behaviors that students don’t hold in common, even with their best friends, and that this is what makes us individuals. Before students move on to Part Two, explain to them that our friends play certain roles in our lives. They can be people we do things with, people we enjoy talking to, people we confide secrets in, people we like to joke with, etc. Explain to the students that this part of the exercise will help them examine the role friends play in their lives.
Ask students to complete Part Two. When they have finished, ask them to talk generally about how important friends are to them. Ask your students:
To finish this section, acknowledge how important our friends can be to us, and how difficult it can be when we feel that we have to choose between doing something we don’t necessarily want to do in order to solidify a friendship, and not doing it. Talk about how truly strong friendships can handle differences of interests, values, etc.
Explain to students that while our interests and behaviors influence us in our choice of friends, sometimes our friends influence us in our choice of behavior. Ask students to complete Part Three. Then, assemble them in small groups and ask them to discuss their answers and address these questions:
Have students work in their groups to complete the “You Decide!” section of the activity. After about ten minutes, reconvene and ask your students:
This exercise and the follow-up activity can offer you an opportunity to talk with your students about how unhappy people can feel when they give up their own desires and values to go along with those of a group. Talk about how difficult it can be to take a position that is unpopular with one’s peers, but how good it can feel when the student exercises his or her independence. Most times, young people are actually quite tolerant of differences among friends as long as the differences don’t outweigh the similarities.
After completing the digital activity, your students will be presented with the following two scenarios and space to type in their responses. Have them work in small groups to decide how to respond.
1) Pretend your friends are going to get a certain haircut, but you’ve been forbidden by your parents, and your friends tease you about it. What will you do? Why?
2) Imagine you’re thinking about joining the school chorus, but other students think it’s uncool. What will you do? Why?
Then, ask your students: