Every parent’s desire is for their teen to never have to deal with scary subjects such as porn, drugs or sex. The teen and pre teen years are a difficult time for youth and I think even more difficult for parents. One of the best things to do as a parent is to become preventative in your parenting efforts. Prevention?! What is that??? Here it is in a nutshell: to be in readiness for; to act ahead of; to stop something from happening. Parents often fall into 2 categories…..1. my kids are going to do it anyway there is nothing I can do about it. So they do just about nothing. No boundaries, very little conversation, no expectations. OR 2. my kid will never do that. Living life thinking that their youth will never be faced with difficult moral choices because they are a ‘good kid’. Both of these are extremes. I remember as a young parent I was told that I didn’t need to talk to my kids about the ‘bad stuff’ because you are only teaching them good stuff so they will recognize when they are headed into the zone of bad choices. UM…wrong. We change the oil in our car so our car will run well…..prevention. We obsess over eating right and exercise to be healthy……prevention. Yet we have no clue how to be preventative in our parenting. Here are a few tips:
- Be willing to talk about the ‘scary stuff’ THIS is so hard. Not one parent ever wants to think that their kids are going to look at porn, participate in sexual acts, drink alcohol or have a secret life in an online world. I can tell you there are so many times when I know I need to have a conversation with one of my kids or they ask a question and the topic makes my throat tighten and my stomach feel like its in knots. Does anyone else feel this way? So take a deep breath, plan out what you are going to say and dive right in. The first few times it is awkward and painful. Trust me it is just as awkward for you as it is for them but as you continue to keep the doors open and the conversation safe it becomes easier. I think one of the big keys is to keep it age appropriate. What you will talk to your 11 year old about will be completely different than a 17 year old.
2. Do your research Find out what youth are doing. Where do they spend their time, what is popular in TV shows, social media apps, what is hot in fashion, music and movies. Ask your own youth what are their friends talking about what do they think is cool. I will warn you though….you may not like what they have to say. I remember when I found out that ‘hooking up’ is having sex. Intercourse or oral….. I was like “WHAAAAT!!!” I thought that just meant meeting up with someone, uh like for coffee. This research is a necessary part of prevention. In order to help kids we have to be aware of current teen culture.
3. Be Pro Active Often parents wait until there is a crisis to deal with behaviors. Become a parent that thinks ahead. Such as BEFORE you give your youth a phone, create boundaries and rules about it’s usage. What will you do if the rules are broken. Making it clear not only for you but for your youth what the expectations are. Other areas to be proactive in are dating, driving, grades, friendships, device usage (computers, tablets, gaming systems). There are so many areas including drug and alcohol usage. If you do find your self in crisis, get help. Don’t wait, don’t think it will go away get help.
4. Get yourself a couple of groupies Groupies…those people that will stick with you through thick and thin. Will listen to you rant about the craziness of teen hormones. Won’t be shocked if you have to confess to them that you threw a fit like a toddler when your teen wrecked the car. These people are necessary for your sanity and support. A voice of reason when you feel like you are losing yours.
5. Be Willing to Listen Listen to your groupies and to your teen. This is one of the hardest transitions. To become a listener of your teen instead of a teller. A teller likes to tell people what they should do. How they should do it. In the teen years as parents our role transitions into coach, cheerleader and listener. So…..listen, listen and listen some more.