The teenage stage is the stepping-stone from child to adult.
It carries a lot of baggage and social expectations and preconceptions. It is ‘the’ time when kids break rules, develop 'attitude', go off the rails, push boundaries, take risks and so forth. That is right, isn't it? It is all a part of the period of intense learning and brain development, (which seems to have corresponded with my gray hair?) I feel we would be better to call this stage the 'Adult in Training' stage. After all, that is what it's all about; learning to be an effective, functioning adult, a concept that many of adults struggle with ourselves sometimes. And a great many things they are facing are very grown up things. Also, it is the stage where we as the adults have a steep learning curve as well. It goes both ways.
It is little wonder that these young adults in training don’t always get it right the first time either.
There are certainly adult activities that are appealing to teenagers based on the very nature that they are Adult Activities. It makes sense that things like sex, alcohol, drugs and other 'adult stuff' seem to draw them. They are usually the bits that challenge us as parents the most.
Talk about a confusing and frustrating stage, where in some areas they are considered 'not kids anymore', being told to 'stop acting like a child', and they feel like they are grown-ups. But half the stuff adults do is off limits! How is that fair? How come some bits are off limits and other stuff is ok?
It begins with maximizing communication and trust relations with your teen.
Of course, we know why these things are not suitable, but teenager needs to be supported to understand why. It begins with maximizing communication and trust relations with your teen. (If communication is an issue with you and your teen, there is a great Parenting Prac E-course #10Days2TeenTalk here) and be prepared to have some raw honest conversations. They are not the easiest to have but, if you commit to establishing and building trust, and the key is to NOT freak out when they do share, you will start to get somewhere.
Are they guilty of your crimes?
Statistics show that teenagers are actually having sex later in their teen years than earlier generations (blush), and also not indulging in alcohol consumption as much as prior generations. Perhaps the old 'what was I doing when I was 15?' thought process is having an unfair perception of your teen? Are they guilty of your crimes? I must admit that when I did find out my teens were participating in some adult practices, I freaked out on the inside. It was a full on paper bag moment (breathe, breathe, breathe, oh f#@k it put the bag over my head). THE Talk was so much easier (pft!) when it was all theoretical, but when the context became more 'prac based' shall we say, it got weird - for both of us.
But I reminded them that if they were wanting to take that step into the adult activity, then that also involves being mature and responsible enough to have this discussion. Take whatever 'shot of courage' you need and talk to them. If you can not manage this as the adult in the equation, then perhaps you have no place in getting involved? Harsh but true. Always work your own shit out before you embark on addressing issues with your teen. (Here is a tip, having the conversation about responsible drinking can wain in effectiveness if you have glass of wine in your hand that you are downing every pause in conversation)
Trusting my teens does not mean that I am not super vigilant to what they are doing, where they are going, and who they are with.
The things that freak me out personally are drugs and youth suicide. I have a personal connection to these having lost a family member to both. These things evoke a very raw and emotional reaction in me, far more than my teens drinking or having sex. My approach to these issues has always been measured but honest.
I think that honesty impacted on my kids' decisions about their attitudes about drugs and mental health.
I need to trust that they understand why these issues are very real social concerns. Trusting my teens does not mean that I am not super vigilant to what they are doing, where they are going, and who they are with.
As many parents have very real concerns about destructive teenage risks. I have also had very real brushes with the icy fingers of teen drug use and teen suicide. I share with you my suggestions if you are worried that your teen is doing drugs on the page Teens & Drugs I also share with you a video blog on teens and suicide. Part One of the Honest Truth can be found here. This is a recent addition to the Talking Teens resources and is a work in progress... as in I am still going through this with my son. It is raw and it is honest. It is as close to my greatest fear I ever want to come.
So much happens during these years:
first love, first job, new friends, learning to drive, alcohol, drugs, going out, maybe even moving out! So many full on events, all during a time of hormonal change and identity change. It is the prime time for trust and actively rebuilding trust if things do not pan out so well, (says the grand master of getting it wrong!). It is a time when the power of the word ‘sorry’ becomes a firm foundation in assisting these young adults in training...I was referring to YOU saying sorry, not just them.
Coming soon: Parenting Prac #5Days2AOK Adults in Training - Register now