Peer Pressure? Whatever!

How far would you go to have others think you’re cool? Would you steal from a store? Pull a cruel prank on a teacher? If you’d take risks and behave in ways you normally wouldn’t just to follow the pack, that’s caving in to peer pressure.

What’s the Big Deal?
You’ve heard the term “peer pressure” since third grade. Before you even understood exactly what it meant, you knew it was some force that had a profound impact on your well-being. Peer pressure is the influence your “friends” exert on you, and recent reports blame it for everything from body piercings to school shootings.

Not all peer pressure is negative. The people you hang out with shape your personality. Girls who have a supportive network of friends are less likely to suffer from depression. If your friends play sports, eat right, do well in school and are involved in community service, chances are, so will you. If they don’t smoke or do drugs, chances are, neither will you.

Combating Mean Girls
In-your-face peer pressure can cause even the strongest teens to consider risky behavior. More than 70 percent of girls in a recent survey said they’ve seen clique members act mean toward outsiders. Whether you’re tempted (“Come on, it’ll be fun ... we’ll never get caught.”), taunted (“What's the matter, your mommy says you can’t go?”) or threatened (“If you were really our friend, you’d come with us.”), there are ways to handle the pressure:

  • Ask lots of questions The answers will help you determine the level of risk involved and will also put the other person on the defensive, which places you in a position of power.
  • Consider the consequences Getting grounded? School detention? Your conscience? Contrary to what they're telling you, everyone is not “doing it” (no matter what it is).
  • Practice saying no When you have to say it, don’t trip up. The more certain you are of your no, the less people will bother you.
  • Get away from the pressure zone If you know what's about to happen -- maybe a conversation bad-mouthing a friend of yours or an invitation to a place you're not comfortable going to -- make a quick exit.
  • Be your own best friend There is no feeling greater than standing up for yourself and learning to be your own person. True friends like you for who you are, not for who they want you to be.

Set a New Trend for 2010!

Yes, we hope you love yourself exactly the way you are right now. But life is about continuously growing and evolving, and what better time than the new year to make positive changes?

“I’ve been wearing my hair the same way since I was 5.”
Ponytails and headbands are great, but could it be time to update your do? Cropped pixies and bobs are expected to be popular in 2010 if you’ll let your stylist go scissor-happy. (C’mon, be brave!) If you’re adamantly against short hair, go shoulder length but play with it: buns or low ponies, curly or straight, middle or side part.

“I have OK clothes, but I don’t really have a style.”
So, you throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt most days? Great, but put a little personality into your look! You can really punch it up with accessories. Take a fashion trend -- hats, shawls and denim jackets are hot this season -- and make it your own by adding, say, that punk-rock pin you keep stuck to your bedside lampshade. Stylin’!

“I’m so sick of the drama between me and my friends.”
If you and the BFFs consistently have conflicts, remember: You can’t change their behavior, but you can change your own. So, take an honest look at your actions and promise yourself three things:

1.    “I will not put my friends down.”

2.    “If it’s not my biz, I’ll stay out of it.”

3.    “I won’t hold grudges.”

Follow these rules, and your relationships should improve.

“My grades aren’t too bad, but I know I could do better.”
If you know you’re not doing your best work, then you’re not trying hard enough. It’s one thing if you’re giving it your absolute all and still only coming out average, and that’s OK. But if you’re just getting by when you know you could be even slightly better? Crack the books. If you need a little boost, ask your teacher for some pointers.

“I just wish my parents would get off my back.”
Sometimes it seems the parentals are pushing you too hard, and the very next sec, they’re reining you in. Yeah, we know. Your best bet? Demonstrate maturity. Show them you’re responsible by coming home at curfew, keeping up with schoolwork and doing chores without being asked. We can almost guarantee this will keep them off your case -- and maybe even give you bargaining power for negotiating extra privileges!

Holiday Mission: Start a Family Tradition!

No matter what holiday your family celebrates, we have some unique ideas for making the season spectacularly special! Turn any of the following activities into an annual fam event, and there you have it: a family tradition.

Trim a Tree … Outdoors
We’re not talking about lighting up the shrubs and hedges with 1,000 bright-colored bulbs. Instead, give a gift to your neighborhood wildlife by decking out an evergreen with decorative edibles: garlands made of popcorn and cranberries, pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, dried apple slices tied with red-and-green ribbon. Watch the hungry birds flock to your yard!

Turn out the Lights!
Well, not all of them -- let the decorations shine on. But for just one night, turn off the main lights in the house, break out some candles, spin the holiday tunes and enjoy the illumination coming from your holiday decor. Use this time to make handcrafted gifts together, sing carols or video-chat with a relative who’s far away.

Ornament Trading Company
Many people have cookie-swapping parties, but how about an ornament trading get-together? Everybody in the family must make (not buy!) creative holiday ornaments. Glue popsicle sticks together to make sleds, build snowmen out of felt pieces or swirl different colors of paint inside clear glass ornaments. Then get together and swap away!

’Tis the Season to Give
Lots of families like to show generosity during this time of year by getting involved in volunteer opportunities. Check your local library or community center to find out how you and your family can sign up to work in a soup kitchen, “adopt” a needy family, visit nursing home residents or donate last year’s gently used toys to make room for the new batch of goodies you’re about to get.

What-a-good-time Capsule
Fill a shoe box with items from this year’s holiday festivities: a party napkin, wish lists, a few snapshots and so on. Stash it away, right along with all of your holiday decorations, and forget it about it for a while. Then on the following year, open it up and enjoy the memories from the previous holiday.

The Home-cooked Stretch
It’s always a letdown when the holidays are over. So why not extend them for just one more day? About a week or so after the fun has ended, schedule a sit-down family meal with a twist. You know how Aunt Sophie always serves her cornbread pudding or Mom makes the same chestnut stuffing every year? Hit the library for some offbeat cookbooks and make all new dishes for an “after party.” Place one small wrapped present at each place setting, even if it’s just a little something from the dollar store. The fun has just begun!

May the Force Be With You

Nikki Goldstein, author of GirlForce: A Girl’s Guidebook for the Body and Soul, gave us the inside scoop on how air, fire and Earth elements dominate your well-being, based on the ancient practice of Ayurveda. One elemental energy rules for most girls. What’s your type? Read below to find which one fits you best…then be your best you!

Are You an Air Girl?
Girls who are air types are generally creative and adventurous with slim frames. They can be tall or short, but usually have brownish skin, dark freckles, frizzy hair, small eyes, small teeth (sometimes cute and crooked) and dark eyes.

Standout traits Imaginative and quick-witted, you’re a natural-born innovator. You’d make a good fashion designer or astrophysicist. Too much to do, so little time? You also tend to get stressed, scatterbrained, nervous and exhausted.

Make it work Get plenty of rest and eat warm meals. Light and gentle exercise, such as yoga or tai chi, is balance for your body and mind.

Are You a Fire Girl?
Fire-type girls are passionate and determined. They often have medium-sized athletic builds, reddish and blond hair tones, and piercing green-blue or hazel eyes. Skin tends to get sunburned.

Standout traits You make everyone’s party list because you’re dynamic, passionate and magnetic. Still, you’re not always right! It’s a virtue to be a good loser and let others share some of the spotlight.

Make it work To take the pressure off, try swimming and outdoor sports to keep you cool and balanced. Also skip the coffee and fried foods and eat salads and fresh fruit instead.

Are You an Earth Girl?
Earth types are often dreamy and low-key. You might have a larger, curvy build, skin that is pale for your race, thick hair, and large, dark brown or blue eyes. Earthlings generally don’t like exercise.

Standout traits You’re the one everyone depends on in a crisis. You’re a devoted friend who brings balance to any relationship. But when you let yourself go, you end up horizontal.

Make it work Don’t give in to your laid-back nature to the degree that you become lazy and lackluster. You need a light diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, plus plenty of regular exercise. Push yourself to meet new people and avoid relationship ruts.

What's Buggin' Ya?

Forget yesteryear’s “whatever” attitude. Today’s teens care about what’s going on in the world. We’ve done our homework, and what we learned is that, sure, kids worry about which jeans to wear, who’s crushing on whom and next weekend’s big game. But the issues that really weigh on your mind add up to some pretty hefty stuff. Check it out.…

You Love Mama Earth
Teenagers worldwide are acutely aware of global issues, particularly those affecting our environment. In a recent study, a whopping 72 percent of teens surveyed understand that global warming is a serious problem. Still, 58 percent of teens don’t consider themselves “environmentalists.” Even so, another study of kids from 13 different countries reveals an “activist attitude,” and the No. 1 viewpoint, held by six of ten global teens is this: “I would fight for a cause I believe in.” So what’s stopping you? We all share one planet -- let’s do what we can to protect her.

You Want Good Grades
You might say, “Ugh,” when it’s time to get up for school in the a.m., but education remains important to most teens. A 2008 Australian study showed that more young adults are finishing high school and seeking college -- and making the grade gives teens around the world the most pressure. In the United States, one in three teens sees science and technology as the most important subjects in school for preparing themselves to deal with the global economy, and 38 percent wish their schools had more up-to-date technology. Topping the list of future expectations for eight out of thirteen global teens? Being rich, financially secure or better off than their parents.

You’re Sick of Bullies
Spending an average of 11 hours a week online, teens are “superconnectors,” constantly engaged in a virtual world. A creative outlet, yes, but cyberspace also provides a platform for kids to pick on each other. Sixteen percent of U.S. teens report having been victims of cyberbullying. Whether it’s derogatory postings, e-mail rumors or IM harassing, online bullying is seen as a greater threat than traditional bullying by nearly one-third of teens. One study shows the primary online perpetrators and victims are girls: A third of girls report being bullied, compared to 10 percent of boys; 17 percent of girls say they had bullied others, while 10 percent of boys admit to it. And researchers believe these numbers are even higher, as many incidents go unreported.

You Have Mixed Feelings
In the 1990s, teens were optimistic about their world. But by 2006, this took a turn as personal safety became a major worry, with 62 percent of kids concerned about terrorism and war, and only 14 percent of global teens confident that the world is becoming a better place. Overall, though, 21st-century teenagers remain positive -- a passionate and determined generation of young people who believe in themselves and their abilities. Willing to tackle difficult problems, today’s savvy teens recognize the important role technology plays in the future. And in their worldwide social networks, equality abounds with an increased intrapersonal and global understanding. Peace out!