Movies have been written about it, everyone knows it is going to happen, but few parents know exactly what to do. I am talking about what to do and how to handle parenting when you find out your teen is drinking, using drugs, going to parties, or likely all three. Some parents try the “only drink at home so I can teach you to drink”. While other parents take a steadfast stance against any and all party-type behavior by taking everything away and in essence jailing their teenager.
I am not going to give you the answers, but I am going to, I hope, give a guideline that makes it easier to make decisions. First of all, I want to remind you that your relationship with your teen comes first and you cannot possibly control everything. Now with that said, I challenge you to ask yourself what you are modeling at home, and are you displaying to your child that you are happy with your life and the decisions you make?
I think it is important to address the insanity in providing a place for your teen to drink illegally with their friends. I am not judging your thought process and I understand the logic behind this idea. I can however confidently say that this has never prevented any teen from irresponsibly drinking and often it gives them the excuse that if they choose to defy you they are not really defying you all that much. It is also important to address the parent who is so strict that their child becomes an outcast and socially detached. This risks possible complete rebellion or at times setting their child up for being left out and at times bullied.
Set your boundaries, follow through without significant emotion, and focus on controlling what you can control rather than shutting down your relationship and their entire life. Don’t enable any of the above behaviors, but keep in mind that if it happens, your influence is going to be far greater if you remain in control and reasonable.
It is often hard to set boundaries regarding the overall behavior at all times. It is however much easier to set boundaries and control what happens in your home, your cars, and in regard to any of the resources you provide. For example, saying, “I am going to take away your phone and ground you indefinitely if you go to a party and drink,” is setting yourself up for frustration and chaos if the teen decides to become extremely defiant. However, you can always control their use of your house, the room they are sleeping in, and the car you may have provided. An example of an effective and protective boundary is, “If I suspect you might be drinking, using drugs, or lying about where you are spending your time, I cannot allow you to use our car to get around; and to make sure drugs and alcohol stay out of our house we will need to check your room and belongings periodically.”
You decide what your family boundaries and values are. I recommend setting the boundaries and having cool, calm and collected discussions. Don’t ever forget that you influence them most by being consistent, modeling your morals, having limited teaching lectures, unconditionally showing them love even when angry, and by showing them how happy you are in the life you have chosen to live.