Thursday, November 4, 2010

Candy is dandy....but liquor is quicker!

The post Halloween party blues and reviews are starting to trickle in, and candy is not all that's getting served up at teen Halloween parties this year. What is a parent to do?  Brave parents step up to the plate, offer their home for a party hoping to keep their teen and 40 of their closest friends away from TPeeing the local park(toilet papering for those who have never indulged), or egging passing cars. They follow all the expert's advice by inviting other parents over to share the supervision, greet every teen at the door with a rudimentary screening (getting close enough to smell their breath), provide lots of food, climb up and down the stairs to deliver it, doing a little reconnaissance on the way. But still, as the evening wears on, a hysterical daughter climbs the stairs, two girls are puking their brains out on the floor, call an ambulance!!! These are 13 yr olds. At another party, a few responsible kids climb another set of stairs to let parents know some kids were high when they came in and brought more booze to share for the party. Parents can't find the booze, or the kids who brought it, but let all parents know whose kids attended the party that alcohol was sneaked in. So here is the moral of this tale of two parties, even with the best laid plans, and good parent supervision, kids will find a way!!!!

Think of your teen in the same way as you thought about him/her as a toddler. The world is now a  wondrous and exciting place for your toddler to explore now that they can move on their own and explore every nook and cranny of your home. Loving this curiosity, you do everything you can do to encourage them, but also to keep them safe. Out come the electric outlet covers, the brackets to keep bookshelves from toppling, poisons out of reach from inviting cabinet doors. You anticipate, prepare, and predict what might happen and do your best to keep them safe.

Your teen too sees his/her world as a new and exciting place, curious about all the taboos that heretofore were uninteresting and uninviting. But now all that has changed. What does it taste like? How does it make you feel? Everybody else is doing it, should I?  Will it make me more fun, more popular, more sexy, less nervous, more confident????  These are the questions that flood your teen at that moment of should I or shouldn't I? Not the ones you wished they were asking like: Should I being doing this, it is unsafe, not good for my developing brain, my parents trust me, and won't this betray their trust? No, for the most part they are not thinking or asking those questions. For younger teens they may be in a situation they have never been in before, and have no idea what to do.

Just saying to your teen, "you better not, and if I find out you did, you will be grounded"will probably not encourage them to be honest with you. Kids lie because they have to. If instead you say: "I know you are going to be in situations you have not been in before, or situations that can get out of hand, lets figure out some ways to keep you safe."You will more likely open a conversation rather than end it before it gets started. There is a mixed message inherent in all of this, which is totally troubling. I'm with you. Should kids be drinking, and taking drugs?...absolutely not!!! Will they, even if we say you better not and there will be severe consequences if you do?  Probably. The consequences don't seen that bad to them in the excitement of the moment, and the ultimate goal here is to keep your kid safe. And if acknowledging I don't want you to drink or take drugs, but I know you might, keeps the communication going with your kid and ultimately keeps them safe, then so be it.

Your kids need your help. They need you to help them anticipate and plan. This is not something that comes naturally to teens. Teens live in the moment, adults live in the future. So next time your kid leaves to go to a party or a get together, or a football game, or a sleepover, even if there are going to be parents present, rather than just saying "you better not", try instead" I'm guessing there might be some alcohol, or drugs around, tonight, what's your plan to stay safe". It is unrealistic to expect your teen to always do the right thing, temptation is a strong motivator, just ask Adam and Eve.

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