LB: GIRLilla Warfare’s Editorial Assistant Sami Blumenthal, 17, is back for another round. Parents seemed to appreciate her insight into the all-too-mysterious Teen World. This time she asks her peers: How should parents go about talking to their kids about drugs and alcohol? Should they tell them that it is completely unacceptable, or explain their own past experiences and “hard” lessons they have learned?
Like EVERY piece featured in GIRLilla Warfare, this too is OPINION, and not “professional” advice or a researched article. Our goal at GW is to create an open forum of “discussion” of lifestyle topics by Moms (and Dads too) who are in the “trenches” of suburbia.
Please note that particularly regarding a topic as serious as drugs and alcohol, this is merely a Q & A — thoughts from local teenagers. For an expert opinion, please contact a professional in the field for an in-depth perspective.
Hello everybody! It’s Sami Blumenthal, and I’m back to explore the curious mind of the teenager. Curiosity seems to knock much more heavily on the high-school-door than the previous middle-school-door and obviously (at least I hope to God…) on the elementary-school-door. With the label “teenager” comes the direct association with independence, maturity, and strength. Unfortunately, it’s too incredibly common for us teenagers to use these characteristics in an immature way.
We tend to use our independence, maturity, and strength to open that door the moment we hear curiosity banging away. What slips many of our minds is the ILLEGAL aspect of opening that door. When we weigh Illegal vs. Curiosity, the typical teenager may fall for that false sense of importance curiosity has over morality. But because we still live in your household, and you guys are the ones bringing home dinner every night, I guess it is your responsibility to have “The Talk” BEFORE we begin to grasp that door handle. But what method is the most informational, beneficial, and effective?
I caught up with a few teens and asked them how exactly they would expect a parent to talk about drugs and alcohol…
-Jeff, age 19, youngest of 2
“Parents should have an open relationship with their children regarding alcohol and drugs. Ever since sophomore year I have been able to talk to my parents about drugs and alcohol. I am able to tell them that I will be going out to drink and they are okay with it. They do not encourage this by any means, but they know they can’t stop me from doing it. Having this kind of open relationship has really benefited me and my parents, and our relationship has really grown from it.”
-Alec, age 19, middle child
“I think my parents should have talked about it the minute they suspected someone my age might have been doing it. I recommend that parents teach their kids how to be smart about alcohol and teach them about their own past experiences and what they’ve learned. Have a ‘no questions asked’ policy when they need a ride home, etc. Bring it up when there is an outside medium that introduces the topic.”
-Delany, 16 years, oldest of 2
“I think parents should explain their past experiences and lessons they learned. Telling kids it’s unacceptable makes kids more likely to rebel. If all a parent says is drinking is unacceptable, then they won’t teach their kid how to be safe with it. Kids will be scared to call their parents if they need help, a ride, advice, etc, because they don’t want to get in trouble from drinking. I think it’s better for parents to tell their kids they shouldn’t drink but they should also tell their kids how to drink safely and that they can always call them if they need something and not to be scared to.”
-Caroline, age 13, youngest of 3
“I think a parent shouldn’t say its unacceptable because it’s bound to happen sometime, so I think a parent should give their child advice and tell them the right and wrong way to handle situations. Telling their kid it’s unacceptable will only end up causing issues later on and give their kid a reason to rebel.”
Danielle, age 15, youngest of 2
“I believe that parents should share their past experiences and mistakes with their children when discussing drugs and alcohol. When the time comes and the child is old enough, parents should sit their child down and tell them why drinking and drugs are unacceptable in their household. Through this they should tell stories about their teenage years and how they experienced drugs and alcohol. I know I am much more likely to follow rules when the discussion is on a more personal level with my parents, rather than a stern “no” or having them tell me it’s completely unacceptable. The experiences the parents share with their children let them know that things happen, but also that there will probably be a large consequence.”
So…what happens when you guys tell us NOT to open the door…what do you think many of us are going to do? Open the door…obviously.
Like I said in the beginning, curiosity is banging a lot harder to avoid than morality, now that we’re teenagers. But the funny thing is, curiosity is broad. We wonder a lot about the “what ifs”…”What would happen if I drank ‘X’ amount of shots” or “What would happen if I tried smoking…” Telling your kids real stories is a chance to not only create prime-time bonding time, but also it will provide a real opportunity for education. My advice: Use it.
You may have “The Talk” with your kid, and they choose to walk through that door anyway. Was “The Talk” pointless?
I believe the discussion creates a comfort blanket. A safety zone. I know that if I were ever in trouble, I could call my mom or my dad and they would pick me up…no questions asked. Of course there would be conversation later, regarding what had happened and declare whatever punishment I may deserve…(hopefully, the right punishment!)
This conversation is understandably difficult, but I truly believe that kids who have an open relationship with their parents have a better chance at making a good decision. Remember: the ultimate decision is still up to us, whether or not to walk through the door. And if we do, know that perhaps because of the rich, deep conversation that was held, it will enrich our independence and strength, to help guide us maturely out of whatever immature situation in which we put ourselves.< back