Yesterday. My kids were young. Tomorrow. Getting older.
This morning I opened my email to find a message from a friend by where she was forwarding a link to a number of mothers regarding our teens, parties and drug and alcohol use. Good advice for raising teenagers? Sounds good to me!
My oldest just turned 14. She has yet to attend a house party. As far as I know. She has yet to try drugs. As far as I know. She as tried a small sip of vodka. As far as I know.
Do I trust her?
yes no yes no yes no yes. I do trust her.
Back to the email. I followed the link to the article titled DOING DRUGS WITH PAUL DILLON: 5 questions you should be asking when you call parents hosting a teenage party. I’ll be honest. I was intrigued. This is a new area for me and my teen. Any advice would be helpful.
But as I read the article, all I could hear was the whooshing of helicopter blades circling overhead.
goes on discusses at length about how if your teenager is going to a party, that we as parents, should be calling the host parents and asking them questions about the party. When does it start? When does it end? What are they doing about alcohol? What do they plan to do if there are problems? Who are the adults that will be present at the party? He also explains that teenagers start their evenings at pre-parties so we need to be careful because talking to the host parent isn’t going to be enough.
This is where he starts to lose me.
We were all teenagers once. Right? And those of us reading this, with our own teenagers, all survived. Did some not survive? Sadly, yes. We went to parties. We drank. Some did drugs. I did not. Not sure why, but I just didn’t. Some would say that I was too goody-goody. Me, I just don’t think I had any interest. I digress.
We are a different generation. We are the helicopter parent generation. Our parents were not. They did not call other parents to ask about a party that was happening in their house on the weekend. Probably because a) we did not tell them we were going to a party, b) the other parents probably did not know there was going to be a party in their house and c) it was just not the way things were done back then.
So, does it help to call the host parents? I am not sure. Am I “anti-calling the host parents” because it would make me uncomfortable? Probably. I am not very good with confrontation. The mere fact that I call it confrontation is a whole other issue. Again, I digress.
Ultimately, where I see the problem is with the fact that we, as parents, seem to be holding everyone else accountable for our teenagers actions, and not the teenagers themselves. And most certainly we would never hold ourselves accountable. It couldn’t possibly be our fault. We hold teachers accountable when our children fail to get good grades. We hold schools accountable when our children fail to get into a high school or university of their choice. We hold coaches accountable when our children fail to make the top sports teams. We hold store security guards accountable when our children get caught shop-lifting. We hold the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend accountable when our children’s hearts are broken. Ok, maybe that one is the way it should be. And now we are holding other parents accountable for making sure that they host parties in an appropriate manner so that our children are safe.
Why are we not sitting down with our children and talking with them? Why do we not explain the dangers and risks associated with alcohol and drugs? Probably because our parents might not have. Probably because when we look back to when we were teenagers, we realize that we would not have listened.
Teenagers by definition, are still growing, still maturing, still learning. Hell, I am still growing (not physically thank goodness), still maturing and still learning. Part of teenage life is parties, defying parents, pushing boundaries and maybe a drink or two, or too many. Do we really think that we are helping when we call a host parent? I would think that my daughter would be mortified and that would be the last time she would tell me anything.
I talk with my daughter. A lot. And I hope that I am building a relationship where she feels that she can be honest with me. That I trust her, and because of that, she will be as open as she can be. We talk about the risks of drinking. We talk about the fact that drinking can kill you. We talk about how drinking sneaks up on you and by the time you think maybe you should stop, that it is probably too late. We talk about how one day she will get drunk and have a bad hangover and swear that she will never do it again. And we talk about how she will. Do it again. We talk about how when you hide things it is hard to reach out for help. And that if you can’t reach out for help, bad things might happen.
I feel very strongly that if I trust my daughter and have good, constructive, open dialogues, that she will get into less trouble. That she will be in less danger. That she will be more comfortable calling me for help when she needs it. It is the times when we are not honest, when we are secretive, that trouble happens. The fact that something is being hidden escalates the danger and in this case makes it harder to get out of. If she hides the fact that she is going to a party and things start to go wrong, you can bet that she is not going to call me.
That is where we need to focus our efforts. On our relationships with our children.
About a year ago, a family in town hosted a party for their teenager. The told their child that they could have a party but there was to be no alcohol. It was explained that the kids would be checked when they entered the home. Imagine their surprise when after about an hour or so, the noise of the party increased. The teenagers seemed to be having more than their fair share of fun will imbibing on soda and eating potato chips. “What is going on?” they thought? “We checked everyone as they came in.” What they failed to realize was that in the week leading up to the party, every time a friend came over, they brought alcohol and stashed it in the basement.
Teenagers are resourceful. We should not underestimate them.