This is the follow up in a 2 part series with Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D., professional consultant on teen issues & contributing expert psychologist for Mode Lifestyle.
Having seen a fair amount of problem drinking among my peers growing up, how can we assist so that they make better choices in those situations? If teens see their parents drinking at social events from time to time, does the teen mind translate this into improper modeling?
Seeing parents drinking responsibly from time to time translates into appropriate parental modeling. Allowing your teens to drink alcohol in your home is on the other hand not a good practice. It sends the message that underage drinking is acceptable. In fact, teens whose parents allow them to drink at home are doing them a major disservice. These teens are at increased risk to become binge drinkers. Parents need to send a clear message that underage drinking is risky and not lower the bar on that.
Let them know that if they are at a party where things are getting out of hand they can call you to pick them up. Encourage your teens & their friends to look out for one another. If one of their friends is in trouble from drinking excessively they should call for help. Finally, keep in mind that teens often sleep over friends’ homes when they want to drink so that they don’t need to face you when they’ve been drinking. Keep an eye on this. You may want to limit the frequency of sleepovers.
Some parents point to the fact that teens in Europe are allowed to drink and that these kids have a healthier attitude toward alcohol. Actually, this is a fallacy. These European countries also have problems with substance abuse.
Can you mention a common issue or two of teens, which might have been lessened if their parents approached it differently when the child was younger?
Teens often lie to their parents because they are afraid that if they are honest their parents will become judgmental, punish them harshly, or show disappointment. Their fears cause them to keep secrets and lie. If parents start, when their kids are young, to create a home atmosphere where their children can be open about their mistakes and errors in judgment then they set the stage for their children to develop into teens who are honest and forthcoming.
What are some of the biggest offenses that parents of teens commit?
1. Attempting to solve all of their teens’ problems for them. This sends the message that the teens are incapable and incompetent.
2. Forgetting that your teens mostly want you to listen, not fix things. Sometimes they just want you to be a sounding board.
3. Acting like a friend not a parent. Your teens need you to be a nurturing authority figure who provides them with structure and limits. They won’t admit this but I can assure you that it is in fact the case. Hopefully both you and your teens have your own separate sets of friends.