Sex, Drugs and Parenting
Birth control involves values and personal choice, Severe says. “The reason teen pregnancy is down is because more teens are on the pill. Preach abstinence, but you should have “the talk” long before sex becomes a reality. If you think your teen is having sex, I recommend Planned Parenthood. The organization doesn’t just hand out condoms and contraceptives, but educates, too.”
Should parents admit they tried drugs when they were younger? “If you say you did not, they’ll know you are lying, unless you were part of the 3 percent who didn’t. I told my kids that in the ’60s and ’70s, drugs were safer than the ones available today. So much is chemically produced, and kids are dying from them. Kids are always going to experiment. That’s what they do. I tell them I got lucky, I could have ended up in trouble. Be real, real careful.”
Amelie Ramirez, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Cancer Control Research, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, concurs that honesty is the best policy. “I think parents need to admit they used marijuana, for example. Say, ‘It was a mistake on my part, I’m not doing it now,’ and try to set a good example,’” she said. Ramirez is also an adviser to the National Anti- Drug Media Campaign.
“We want parents to take time to get more involved with their kids. Have fun with them, and afterward, say, ‘I just want to talk to you now.’ This way, when you want to discuss a serious topic, you have that bond,” Ramirez said.
She says reading together, playing games, participating in religious activities and sharing meals all help to form a sense of being connected.
“After a busy day of work and school, don’t just ask whether they did their homework or what grade they got on the math test. Focus on the stuff that interests them, too. You might say, ‘Did anything good happen to you today?’” she said.
Ramirez says children need limits all the way through high school and need to know parents care about them, and want to know who their friends are. Have a check-in policy so they let you know when they are home from school, who they are with, and what they are doing.
“As our kids transition into middle school, it’s almost the scariest time. Peers play an ever more important role, and kids want approval from them. That’s when most of the danger comes into play as they are exposed to tobacco, alcohol, marijuana. But that’s when they need parental involvement the most. Pick up the phone to ask another parent if there will be adult supervision at a party. Our kids may say they hate us, that no other parent is doing that, but you will find others want to know as well. It takes a strong parent to foster that with the other parents,” Ramirez said.
Helping a teen navigate the changing and confusing world of school, peer groups and negative influences can be a daunting task. Keep your eye on the prize — raising a happy, well-adjusted, successful young adult, Severe says.