Parents' code words can help teens avoid peer pressure scenarios

Suzanne Monaghan
October 12, 2019 - 6:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Peer pressure can make it difficult for teens to get out of risky situations. But one simple word or phrase can give them an excuse to leave safely.
Here's how it works: First, the family should decide on a word or phrase the child can easily slip into a text or conversation that signals they're in trouble. When it's used, the parent knows to call the teen and make up a reason why they need to come home right away. 

"In our dreams they would be with their friends and they would say, 'I'm sorry, I won't participate, I need to go home.'  But that's not always reality," said Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It's hard to do with friends, and young people find themselves in places they didn't expect to be."

Ginsburg, also the co-director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, said using a code word shifts the blame to the parents so the teen can save face — and possibly even save his or her life.  

But for this to work, parents have to agree to a no-punishment policy.

"If our kids reach out to us to enable us to get them out of trouble, we have to celebrate that and not punish them for the situation in which they called, or that will be the last call you get," he explained. "Celebrate that responsibility. Celebrate that they chose to get themselves out of trouble."

Ginsburg added the code word strategy allows kids to see parents as a foundation of protection.  

"We want our young people to know that we are a source of advice, of solace, of wisdom," he said.