With prom and graduation parties on the horizon, you may be getting ready to talk with your teenager about drugs and alcohol. On my PBS show and radio show Let’s Talk, I interviewed a mother who was very involved with an organization that helped provide drug and alcohol education, and what she said about this particular topic made a great impact on me. At one point, she said she was asked how she would handle discussing drugs and alcohol with her own child. Her response was to write a letter to her child, which was then published in the newspaper.
In that letter, she shared these important points with her son:
- It’s against the law for someone your age to drink and use drugs.
- Remember that a police record will stay with you forever, whether you look for a job, apply to colleges, or try to get into college sports or a fraternity. One bad decision can stay with you and affect so many aspects of your life.
- I would prefer that you don’t partake in alcohol or drugs, but if you do… know that I want you most of all to be safe. That means: if you decide to drink, do not drive. If you decide to drink, call me and I will pick you up…and no questions asked. I just want you to be safe…I want you to live.
It is her final point that I found so profound. In essence, she lays down the law and reminds her child of the rules, but then reminds him that most of all he can count on her. Because in the end, she just wants him to be safe.
Parenting is a tough job, with few absolutes or clear solutions. When it comes to right and wrong, as a parent, you are entitled to state your case and reinforce the fact that when your adolescent child is away from your view, the decisions he makes are ultimately his responsibility and his alone. But then, at the end of the day, he also needs to know that you’re there to support him and you will never abandon him, no matter what.