Your teenager, at some point in time, may be faced with the temptation or peer pressure to engage in one or more of the following activites:
- Cutting school
- Cheating on a test or homework assignment
- Smoking cigarettes
- Drinking (beer or liquor)
- Buying and/or doing illegal drugs (marijuana or harder drugs)
- Selling illegal drugs
- Having sex (safely or otherwise)
- Driving after curfew or without permission
- Holding or attending an unapproved or unchaperoned party
These temptations always have been, and will always be, out there; they’ll find your child at a public school or a private one. Clearly, some are more “minor” than others, but the ways YOU choose to deal with them can make or break your relationship with your teen.
As a parent, you cannot bury your head in the sand. Don’t be naive and believe that your child tells you everything, is a goody-goody, or would never dare do these things. Blindness, ignorance, or denial may end up causing you heartache and disappointment, or worse.
So, here’s what you should do:
- Be proactive. Make the time to talk. Be open. Be matter-of-fact.
- Sit down and review this list with your teen by the time he or she turns 13. (Please understand that, by the age of 13, your child may have already engaged in some of these activities. Some friends have suggested that the age of 10 or 11 is not too early.)
- Discuss each activity in terms of its: problems or issues; moral and ethical considerations; potential repercussions (legal, parental, school, etc.); and your feelings about each.
- Provide realistic examples of potential outcomes and responses (i.e. yours or the legal system’s). For example, let’s talk about underage drinking. Explain that if your teen engages in underage drinking at a party, gets caught by the police and is taken to jail, you will make her spend the night in jail. Then, if she has to go to court, pay a fine, and perform community service, it’s all on her. Finally, she must understand that the punishment from YOU includes not attending any parties for 6 months.
- Be firm. Be serious. Be prepared to follow through on your specific threats of punishments.
Once you and your teen have this conversation, there can be no excuses. I’d even recommend that you both sign a “contract” stating that you have read and discussed this list, along with potential repercussions. If you lack the comfort, knowledge, or skills to have these conversations, you MUST engage an outside resource to help; perhaps another family member, a trusted and respected friend, or a professional counselor.
As parents, we must have open communications with our kids. They must understand how we feel about issues and what we’ll do about them. They also must learn the lengths we will go to protect them, but also where we’ll draw the lines. But remember, NONE OF THIS GUARANTEES THAT THEY WON’T TRY THIS “BAD STUFF” ANYWAY. (Read my entry, The Unauthorized Party, for proof!)
Did your parents have these conversations with you? How will you adapt their approach vis a vis yours? Does your child’s school have resources or programs to help deal with these issues?