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The Coffee Club and Peer Pressure on Teenagers

By Susan Whelan - 24th December 2011

A friend recently forced herself to try coffee for the first time. A 33 year-old mother of three, she finally caved in to the social pressure to join the coffee-lovers club. Her first experience wasn’t all that enjoyable, so it will be interesting to see if she perseveres.

As a non-coffee drinker, I can understand the pressure that she has faced to conform. I’ve had numerous suggestions from coffee devotees about the best way to overcome my aversion to the taste of coffee. For some reason, finding someone who doesn’t like coffee seems to stir coffee drinkers up like a red flag to a bull (not a Red Bull, that’s a whole other issue). With so many different flavours and styles of coffee available at cafes, certainly more options than offered to tea drinkers, it can also leave you feeling a little limited if you have to exclude the coffee section of the menu.

While I’m aware of the pressure, I’ve never really felt a need to try any of the suggested techniques for convincing my taste buds that coffee is a good thing. I even managed to survive six months of the rigid 4pm Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) ritual when living in Germany without succumbing, even though this often meant being offered an entire pot of tea while everyone else had their one cup of coffee.

As a teen, I rarely had the finances, social skills or general ability to keep up with the popular kids. Perhaps because of this, I tended to beat my own path and make choices based on what suited me rather than what helped me to fit in. Over the past few years, I’ve realised that I’ve caved in to peer pressure far more frequently as an adult than I ever did as a teen. I have been trying to change that, especially this year, and I think I’m making some progress.

As my children approach their own teenage years, I want them to learn from me not only by what I say, but also by what I do. I want them to be confident enough to try new things, but I also want that confidence to enable them to say "No thanks" if the experience on offer makes them uncomfortable or if they simply aren’t interested. I want them to know that they don’t have to do something simply because it is what everyone else is doing.

Forcing down an unpleasant tasting drink is a small issue in the general scheme of things and my friend certainly has every right to work at acquiring a taste for coffee should she so choose. As for me, I will happily continue to avoid coffee, no matter how tempting the elaborate menu board descriptions. One very tiny part of the overall picture that shows my children that it is okay to be a little different.

image freedigitalphotos.net Stuart Miles

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