Do you know what your son or daughter is doing with his or her free time? What kind of social behavior are they engaged in, especially on the weekend? If your children are under twenty-one and they do sleepovers or go to parties, are the homes supervised?
These are not unreasonable questions to raise in a social climate where reckless behavior and destructive decisions are claiming a record number of young people each year.
Every parent wants to believe their teenage son or daughter when they ask them about their social choices and behaviors. Most of us want to trust our children. We do not want to micro manage their every move.
However, the social divide between parents and teenagers is widening with record speed. We parents are a large part of the problem. There must be a delicate balance between intrusiveness and indifference. Every teenager deserves his or her privacy, if they earn that gift by being honest, forthright and accountable. If your son or daughter lies, cheats and is dishonest on a regular basis, then his or her right to exclusive privacy definitely needs to be re-visited, especially if the lies and dishonesty are jeopardizing their safety and the safety of others.
It is not overbearing, as the parent of a high school student, to expect to know the whereabouts of your son or daughter 24/7. It is reasonable to want to know where and with whom your teenager is hanging out. It is also not unreasonable to have phone numbers in case of an emergency. Verifying that there will be supervision at a home where teenagers are gathering or staying overnight is responsible.
What is not reasonable is intentionally embarrassing your teenager. There is a right way and a wrong way to seek these verifications. Ideally, it should be a cooperative effort between you and your teenager.
Parents who permit teenage parties in their homes should not compromise the law for the sake of winning favor with their son or daughter.
It is prom season. There will be a lot of pre and post prom parties. Tolerating all kinds of drinking because of the occasion is reckless on the part of parents. Tolerating pot in your home is equally reckless, even if you as an adult don't have a problem with it. It is against the law - period. It should not be open to debate, especially when it comes to other people's children. What you and your children do is one thing. No one has the right to give another person's underage child permission to break the law.
If you don't know the family that is hosting the party or sleepover, it is not wrong to respectfully inquire what their rules might be.
No matter what their response, you have an obligation to convey to your son or daughter what your expectations are. For example, MJ asks to sleepover her classmate's home for a birthday party. In the middle of the night, MJ's girlfriends want to sneak out, go to the woods to drink and wake up at someone else's home.
MJ did not know this was the social plan when she got there. This plan emerged at bedtime. The host parents were already asleep. MJ was in a tough spot. Ideally, she has the kind of relationship with you that she can call you anytime to be picked up and go home. Unfortunately, too many teenagers reluctantly give in to the peer pressure. They don't want to be outcasts. As adults, we have to work harder at empowering them not to get stuck within this kind of social dilemma.
Communication is key, even if your teenager is resistant. We must create a climate of openness without shame, blame or guilt. For some of us that will be difficult, primarily because we are afraid. At times, our fear paralyzes us from doing the right things.
A growing number of parents want to be "pals" with their teenage children. Although that is a nice ideal to strive for, it is not appropriate if it forces you to compromise your responsibilities as a parent. Unfortunately, teenage hood is a difficult time in the life of our children. More often than not, if you are being an effective parent, your teenager will convey on a regular basis how much they can't stand you. That is not an indication that you are failing, but rather that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing - holding your children accountable and responsible. Sometimes that is very hard work.
QJ is seventeen. He is the oldest of four children. He and his parents are very close. Being the firstborn, he has been charting the social course for his siblings who are coming behind him. His parents, by his definition, are too overprotective. He has effectively guilted them into lightening up on some of their restrictions. He has been pushing the "social envelope" to the extreme.
He used to have a weekday and a weekend curfew. Right now, he is coming and going as he pleases, staying out all night on the weekends and until 12:00 or 1:00am on school nights. His defense is that this is not affecting his schoolwork. He gets up for school every day, goes to class and continues to maintain a 90 overall class average as a junior in high school.
However, his parents have noted that he looks thin and pale and is always tired. He has withdrawn from them. He has become more secretive about his social behavior. His Mom was talking to another Mom; because QJ is a good kid, she said it is just a "high school phase" that he will move through, not to worry!
A few weeks ago this high school phase became every parent's nightmare. They discovered that their above average, fun-loving son was snorting heroin and almost died of an overdose. It was only by accident that QJ's Mom fell into his journal that had been left out. Because she felt something was not right, she read it. She almost died with what she read.
Right now QJ is in rehab. Hopefully when he comes home he will possess the skills to do more than survive.