Parenting on a good day is a challenging adventure. It is even more challenging if you are parenting teenagers and are divorced and a single parent. Most teenagers are very resourceful. They will look for every opportunity to wear you down and advance their social agenda. That is why it is critical that as a parent you be vigilant and tenacious.
Most parents will convey that they really want to trust their children. To that end, they delete some key guidelines and rules from their teenagers daily schedule.
For example: curfew is a volatile issue no matter what age your teenager is. To be casual in this regard, borders on acting irresponsibly.
Teenagers need structure and flexible discipline. Curfew can be flexible and adjusted depending on social commitments. It should not be written in stone, but it should exist and should be enforced! To have rules that are not enforced is like having no rules at all. Our children know that and will take full advantage.
During the past three months, four teenagers in their senior year of high school had no curfew. They were good kids, good students and highly regarded by all who knew them. Their parents trusted them implicitly.
Each of the four seniors was from a different high school. They didn't know each other. However, each senior started taking advantage of his or her curfew. During the week, they started coming home in the early hours of the morning. On weekends, it wasn't unusual for them to walk in at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. after a night of socializing. None of the four seniors drank or smoked pot, but they did hang out with friends who did both.
By early June, things were getting out of hand. Each family became concerned, but trusted their sons and daughters to do the right thing. They conveyed their concerns and their children affirmed that they understood. The parents took the position that this was a phase and part of senioritis.
Right before graduation, each of these four seniors lost their lives due to recklessness and irresponsibility. In each circumstance, they were out in the early morning hours. Two of the four seniors were killed in the car they were in. Unbeknownst to them, the driver was stoned, was driving at an excessive speed, lost control of the car and crashed.
The other two seniors were victims of drunk drivers. They were both driving home from parties in the early morning hours, and were hit at high speed by drunk drivers.
Teenagers believe they are invincible. There is no guarantee that these accidents could not have occurred in the early evening hours. However, statistically most teenage fatalities occur in the early morning hours.
JK is going into his junior year in high school. He is an excellent athlete and a mediocre student. For most of his life, he has lived in the shadow of his older brother, who excelled in everything.
In junior high school, JK was a typical adolescent. For the most part, he flew under the radar and stayed out of trouble. His parents divorced when he was six. He lived with his mother, who worked two jobs to maintain their home. Mom was an easy parent. Dad was the enforcer. Unfortunately, that approach to parenting created conflict on an ongoing basis between the two parents. Those who know these two parents acknowledge that they are great people. They say that at times mom is too easy and dad is over the top with strictness.
Needless to say, JK learned early on how to pit mom and dad against each other and get his way. Whenever he and his mom had a major battle JK would threaten to move out and live with his father.
High school was a real challenge. He played sports, but also got involved with a fast crowd that were constantly in trouble. He started to smoke pot and drink on the weekends. The weekends became a couple times during the week. Initially, when his mother confronted him about these behaviors he lied and made up all kinds of crazy stories to cover his tracks. At first, she believed him. But he started to get sloppy. She found beer cans in the bottom of his closet along with rolling papers. When she confronted him, he broke down and admitted he was getting stoned and high. She basically told him that the drugs and alcohol had to stop or he would have to leave and live with his father.
The alcohol did not stop and JK was forced to leave his mother's home. He has moved in with his dad. His father has indicated that the pot and alcohol must cease. Unfortunately, JK continues to drink to excess and get stoned. His father has given him a brief window to work on abstinence. Otherwise, he will have to leave his home.
JK continues to drink and get high. Recently, while under the influence of alcohol, he got into a horrific fight and almost lost the sight in his left eye. When asked why he continues to act recklessly, he broke down and sobbed. He said he hates himself and the person he has become. He also feels that he is caught between two divorced parents that he feels ignored by. He did admit that he needs help. He also knows that there are no quick fixes around developmental issues that have taken years to form.
He is willing to commit himself to a process of trying to transform his life. He hopes his parents will put their differences aside and engage in the process.
Stay tuned. This is a story we will revisit in the future to see how it is progressing!