Drug and alcohol consumption amongst teens is of significant concern to a great many parents.
Parents are often desperate for good quality information and guidance about how they should manage this issue with their own teens.
Some time ago, and after watching a locally-produced video on the issue, I felt compelled to share some of my thoughts as a professional and a parent of teens. Hereafter is what I wrote and the time, and it still holds true or me to this day!
My first thought was that I was still the most significant role model my sons had. They looked to me for an example of what it is to be a man and a father. They observed my activities and behaviour and formed ideas about my beliefs and attitudes.
Whether they adopted the same or similar beliefs and attitudes rested, in large part, on my second thought. The relationship I has with my sons was the single biggest determinant of whether they would accept or reject my beliefs, attitudes and example of what it is to be a man and a father. Without a strong and true relationship; that is, a relationship where they experience me as being sensitive and understanding about their thoughts, feelings and experiences; my sons were unlikely to accept my example and the ideas and values that underpinned it.
My third thought was that independence, and independent-thinking and decision-making, were important developmental tasks of the teen years, as they prepared for adulthood. Though every fibre of my being would have liked to take all decision-making out of their hands when it came to such issues as their exposure to drug and alcohol-use at gatherings of their peers, I realised that in order to preserve a strong and influential relationship with my teens I needed to offer them the experience that I trusted them to make sensible decisions. That was my fourth thought.
I also needed them to believe that they could make sensible decisions about what was best for them and our family.
My final thought, at least as far as this article went, was that sensible decision-making by our teens that was consistent with the values of our family stemmed from the parenting we offered them throughout their lives; parenting that placed the relationship at the centre of all endeavour was the key here.
For practical strategies for developing and maintaining strong and influential relationships with your children, my articles entitled “In order to be heard we first need to listen”, “Why punishment is problematic” and “Three loving parental acts that enhance child wellbeing” are a good place to start. They all appear on the this site. For more detailed information, I would refer you to my book, A Short Introduction to Promoting Resilience in Children.
An encore thought: unless our teens experience us putting ourselves in their shoes, we cannot reasonably expect them to consider our experience of the consequences of their decision-making. After all, consideration of our experience is arguably one of the first things we would like them to think about when they make decisions regarding drugs and alcohol.