I grew up in a small town and went to church every week with my family. But that didn’t stop me from getting into trouble. My friends and I routinely drank, had sex and did drugs from the time we were 15 or so. Most of us grew up and turned out fine, but now that I’m a parent, I worry about what my kids are up to.
I think about all the times I snuck out after my folks thought I was in bed asleep. I think about all the times they thought I was going over to a girlfriend’s house for a slumber party when I was really meeting my boyfriend. I know I can’t watch my kids every minute, but I really don’t want them doing what I did. Is there any way to keep them safe without over-protecting them?
Welcome to the parental paradox! Somehow between the time you’re a teenager and the time you have your first kid, activities that seemed “cool” become “dangerous”! Well guess what? They were always dangerous, you were just too immature to know or care. And I’m guessing that your parents weren’t quite as clueless as you paint them.
It doesn’t matter where you live or how many times you go to church, your kids are going to be exposed to alcohol, drugs and sex. You don’t control that part. What you DO control is how you educate your kids about these things. The worst thing you can do is to NOT educate them. I wish I had a dime for every female client I’ve had who got pregnant at a very young age and told me that her parents had given her no sex education whatsoever.
The same goes for drugs and alcohol. Don’t buy into the guilt trip thinking, “How can I tell them not to use pot when I smoked it?” You can tell them because you’re their parents, that’s why! Whatever they decide to do when they are adults, they shouldn’t be using substances as teens. Their brains aren’t fully developed. It is easier to get hooked and can cause more permanent damage.
Teach them your values and educate them about the dangers of growing up too fast. Then you just have to trust them. They will undoubtedly be exposed to things, but with proper education, they will have the tools they need to resist.
It’s also a good idea to check up on them from time to time. Show up at the “slumber party” and see if your kid is really there. Attach a bunch of cow bells to the outside of your teen’s window so all heck breaks loose if he tries to sneak out one night. You don’t have to do this EVERY time because your kids will never know WHICH time you’ll be checking up. Helps to keep them straight.