You dealt with it yourself as a teenager, and now you stand face-to-face with the one issue you’d been hoping to avoid with your own children — drinking. Until now all the parties your kids went to seemed innocent enough, but rumors of drinking at your teens’ events have been trickling into your reality. You’re now at a crossroads, and times have changed so much you aren’t sure which way to go. So what do you do?
1. Make an informed decision. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having all the information you need to make a decision about what your child does. If you teenager’s been invited to a party and you only have her version of what kind of party it is, feel free to call the host’s parents. And let her know why you’re making the call. Help her understand it’s not to embarrass her but to be fair about your decision.
2. Keep it real. Use this opportunity as springboard to reinvent your relationship with your teen if lately things haven’t been going smoothly as you’d like. Your time with your young adult at home is limited, so spend the rest of it getting to know him, his likes, dislikes, joys and hardships. Leave no questions about your child unanswered. Communication, attention and acceptance with and of your teenager helps build his self-confidence and lessens the chances of him looking to alcohol, drugs, the Internet and the like to fill the void of acknowledgement he craves.
This type of communication also opens the door for you to share with him your own life experiences. Think about it: your kids have no idea what you went through growing up since their only point of reference of you is you as their parent. Explain to them you understand what it was like to want to go to parties, whether or not you were allowed to go, and how it affected you. Shattering illusions created by non-communication paves the way for trust, respect and understanding to be the foundation of your interactions. With those healthy characteristics as your foundation, major life decisions don’t necessarily have to fall on your shoulders alone. Both you and your teenager can work as a team to decide what’s best for everyone, and it may even eliminate his or her desire to go to the party at all.
3. Stay consistent. “Because I said no,” is a sure-fire way to get your teen to rebel. f teenage drinking is a value you’re not willing to compromise, make sure your son knows exactly why you feel the way you do. Be as open and honest with your son about the dangers and consequences of drinking and remind him it’s only because you have his safety and best interests at heart that you feel so strongly about this issue. If he’s left to think you’re just being mean (or any of the other choice words kids have for their parents these days) and not wanting him to have any fun, you risk shaking the foundation of trust and respect you’ve worked so hard to build.
Your job as a parent is to teach your children the life skills and integrity they will carry with them into adulthood. Once you’ve set and made clear the ground rules on the issue of going to parties where there’s drinking, the consequences then fall on your teen’s shoulders if he decides to go anyway. Otherwise, the consequences are yours since you left the search for understanding up to a teenager who could end up looking in places where no self-control or delayed gratification can be found.
4. Host a party at your house. If your teenager is desperate to have a social life outside of school, offer to have a party at home … with no alcohol.
5. Be forgiving without judging or condoning. Regardless of how open, honest and solid your relationship with your teenager is, there may come a point when the pressure to drink becomes too much and he caves. Because you’ve been keeping it real with him, make sure he knows in no way are you condoning or excusing his behavior and you still love him no matter what. Let him know it’s safe to share his side of the story and to process the events with you even if you’re disappointed. Involving him in his own life while still being able to effectively parent and communicate is one of the greatest life skills you can share with your son.