Raising teenagers

Last night was the 9th grade potluck dinner at our kids school.  Each class has a potluck which is not only a community builder but a good way to connect with new parents. 

Our school hired a new principal 2 years ago.  We are seeing a lot of the changes that she has implemented starting to take place.  It takes time in an educational institute.  All good actually all fantastic.  Last nights event was completely different than the potluck we had for Jessica when she was in 9th grade, which was only 2 years ago,  and both Fred and I were impressed.

After everybody had something to eat or drink, there is usually the standard speeches from the principal who then introduces the advisors to the class.  Yet last night, after that was done, they kicked all the kids out and created a forum around Wellness.

The forum was led by the principal, school psychologist and HS nurse.  The topic was basically about how to raise a teenager.  Talking to your kids about sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking and Facebook.   An interesting bit of information that they talked about is that your brain is not fully developed until you are 25.  So, in essence, although you are  talking to someone at 18, who you believe to be able to make adult decisions, they might not necessarily be able to because they aren’t quite there yet.  In HS, for instance, there are kids in 9th grade that physically look like adults while others look like kids.  Knowing that information, makes you think about your kid in a different light. One of the themes in the conversation is making you that your child feels like they are involved in decisions that they understand decisions being made and that they understand that you aren’t in the dark about the realities of their landscape. 

Being honest with you kids about the choices they make.  Providing them with the information to make those decisions.  For instance, pot is stronger today than it was 20 years ago because there are chemicals in it.  Know what you are smoking.  Drinking is no doubt at every party but understand what you will feel like when you drink, how much you should drink, etc.  Sex is fine too but make sure you are making the decision about having sex not someone else and if choose to have a sexual relationship, be safe and responsible because there are many sexually transmitted diseases that weren’t around when we grew up.  Facebook is a wonderful social networking tool but remember what you put up there is for the world to see.  Basically, talk with your kids about the realities of the decisions that they will have to make when they aren’t under your roof on a Friday night but make sure that they have respect for you because you are trusting them to make good decisions.  Studies show, that mutual respect carries a huge amount of weight. 

BTW, I have no problem if my kids are drinking on a Friday night, I just want to make sure they understand how to drink.  I would hope our continual open conversations, about anything would make them think about doing 10 shots and passing out.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t but at least I have kept the relationship and conversation open.  I did not say, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex. 

I have always been about honesty with our kids.  If they ask me a question, they get an honest answer.  Last night, the majority of the parents there seem to be on the same page that we were.  The school also talked about their responsibility as an institution to have these conversations with our kids and if they see something that calls for alarm, that they will be there to provide support and talk to the parents. 

It was quite refreshing for a group of parents to sit in a room who are probably having conversations among their friends and with their partners about the same things.  In many ways, the openness of this forum took everyone’s guard down.  We all bonded knowing that we were all navigating the same field.

I give huge kudos to the school for making these conversations part of a parent night and part of the curriculum.  After all, it isn’t just about chemistry, history and math.  The social is a huge part and in truth, the much more difficult part to deal with in any of our every day lives.