Helping Students Build Positive Relationships and Handle Peer Pressure

I was in San José, California recently training Check & Connect mentors at our Institute of Education Sciences research project with SRI.  They wanted to learn more about working with mentees on peer pressure.  I could only find resources directed specifically at parents, so the mentors and I put together our own list of tips for mentors to help students build positive relationships and handle peer pressure.

  1. Work on leadership skills. Many students are used to being followers. Teach them how to lead.
  2. Mentor your mentees as a whole to support each other in making positive changes.
  3. Ask, “What do you know about your new friend’s commitment to school?”
  4. Discuss with mentees the qualities they admire in peers and friends. Ask, “What do you value in a friend? What are you getting and giving to the relationship? What are the power dynamics in your relationship? Who decides what you do? What happens if you don’t want to do something a friend suggests?”
  5. Encourage participation in new activities to broaden the mentee’s circle of friends.
  6. Frame new friendships and time to study as investments in self.
  7. Encourage mentees to invite friends to do homework.
  8. Teach Grandma’s Rule: First you work; then you play. This means that something reinforcing—play—follows doing some work.
  9. Teach exit strategies for mentees to use if they get into a situation they are unsure about. Work with parents on this.
  10. Make a list with mentees about what they think dating rules should be. Discuss friendship as part of this. Ask, “What qualities do you value and want in a date and in a friend?” This helps convey to mentees that they have a choice in who they form relationships with; they don’t have to settle.
  11. Get some good coming-of-age books and keep them in your office to share as needed. A librarian might be helpful for this.

How do these match up with your own strategies for helping students build relationships and cope with peer pressure? Do you have any to add? We’d love to hear from you!


About the Author: Karen Storm, Ph.D. serves as an investigator on several Check & Connect research projects currently underway, and is one of the authors of the 2012 Check & Connect manual, “Implementing with Fidelity”. She thanks the San José, CA mentors for their help in developing this list.

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The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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