Editor’s note: In this month’s feature, Are You Following the Herd?, we tackle a subtle form of peer pressure. This activity from Choices teacher-adviser Amy Lauren Smith—a sixth to eighth grade health teacher at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China, and the brilliant mind behind our Teacher’s Guide each month—will encourage students to ask their families for help dealing with it.
This month, our article Are You Following the Herd? explores the type of peer pressure that kids most often face: the unspoken pressure that causes them to go along with a situation they know is wrong or unsafe due to the fear of not fitting in.
It reminds me of a recent viral blog post by a father of three teenagers about his plan for keeping his kids safe while building an honest and open relationship with them. Anytime his kids feel like they’re in a situation they want to get out of, they can simply send a text with the letter X, and he or his wife will call five minutes later to tell them there’s a family emergency and they’re coming to get them right away. This X-plan concept is powerful, as it gives kids a safety net while they navigate the tricky waters of adolescent decision-making.
At the core of my eighth grade health class is the idea of personal and family values and helping kids make tough choices as they grow. In the past, I’ve had each student conduct an interview with their family—the goal is to agree on their top five family values and then write about the origin of these values and give some examples as to how they’ve used them in the past.
After reading the article and learning about the X-plan, I’ve decided to take a different approach to our family values activity this year. Rather than have the students focus on the past, I’m going to have them look to the immediate future and create a family X-plan of their own.
This activity seems like a natural fit for health class, as it touches on quite a few of our skills-based health standards (communication, self-management, decision-making) while giving kids an opportunity to advocate for themselves during an important conversation with their parents.
Here are the instructions I’ll be giving my students. Feel free to adapt as needed!
Step 2: Discuss the idea of instincts and how to trust your gut. Then talk about possible ways you can get yourself out of situations that don’t feel right or safe.
Step 3: Share information about the X-plan with students. Discuss the following:
- What are your initial thoughts on this idea?
- Do you think this could work in your family? Why or why not?
- How might you adapt this plan to work within your family?
- How could you adapt it to help you in your life online?
Step 4: Provide students with the following worksheet, and then have them sit down with their parents to discuss.
Note: There will be students who might not be able to complete this assignment due to family circumstances. Make sure they know it isn’t mandatory, and they should identify another relative or adult friend to help them out instead.