Parenting at the “Crossroads”

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Listen to Gary, one of our many success stories, describe his experience with us:

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Being openly communicative at the start encourages teens to speak with their parents.So your sixteen-year-old son comes home at 3am one Sunday morning obviously intoxicated and proceeds to stumble into the bathroom where he “hugs” the bowl and is sick for three hours. You, of course, have been waiting up for him – semi panicked because he stopped responding to your texts and calls at midnight (even though he said he would be turning off his phone) – and you are there holding his head as he retches up the alcohol and assortment of food stuffs from the evening indulgences. You have gone through the whole gamut of emotions: anger, fear, joy (at the sound of him stumbling with his keys – he’s safe!!!!), disappointment and genuine concern. As you help him into bed at 6am (carefully placing a large bowl at the bedside – just in case) you begin to reflect: you knew he was going to drink. A party of high school seniors will inevitably involve “partying”. You remember when you were his age and what was involved. You’ve even shared a beer or two with him as a rite of passage and a means of bonding. You know that he’s a good kid; sensible – conscientious etc. As you stare down at his pale face you cherish the sense of relief that he is home now – safe – and in your care. You trust that he did not get into a car with anyone who was equally drunk (you’ve had that conversation with him many times) and you begin to accept the fact that this will probably not be the last time he will be in this state. You tell yourself that this is what all teenagers go through and that there is nothing abnormal involved. But …… there is still a nagging “issue” running through your mind that prevents you from falling asleep. “How do I respond to this? What do I say to him when he wakes up? How do I be a good parent in this situation?”

Well, if you ask other parents you will most likely get a variety of responses. Some will be in favour of laughing it off and others will suggest that there is a serious alcohol problem being faced by your child. There are dangers involved with over-reacting as well as with under-reacting. These are the times when being a parent can be difficult and involve some of the most important decisions in both the parent’s and child’s life. Each situation is, of course, unique – just as each individual is unique. There is no single “formula” for dealing with this kind of situation. Much depends on the kind of relationship you have with your child and how well you communicate with him or her. It really is the communication factor that is important here. The teen years are a psychological and physiological whirlwind of a time. Hormonal changes manifest in behavioural patterns that have not been evident before. As parents, we have to be cognizant of these factors and ideally we have been anticipating them and maintaining a “trusting” relationship with them from the prepubescent stages of their development that will accommodate the difficult transition to puberty and early adulthood. Part of that transition will undoubtedly involve our children’s exposure to drugs and alcohol and all the “baggage” that comes with that exposure. When the peer pressure and growing exposure places our children at that “crossroad” regarding the amount of alcohol and drugs that they will be consuming, who will they turn to with their questions and concerns? Their friends will be just as confused as they are. Perhaps there will be a teacher or school counsellor who has that “special” something (rare, but not unheard of) that will encourage our children to approach them. But, who is most likely to care the most? We are. Parents. What will be the prevailing factors regarding our relationship with our kids that will allow them to be comfortable enough to come to US with their questions and issues? And are we going to be able to advice them comprehensively and properly given the intimacy and particulars of the parent/child dynamic? It’s not easy being a parent. But a big part of it involves anticipating the growth cycles and the problems that come at each stage of our child’s development. Opening the lines of communication and establishing trust at an early stage is the most conducive means by which to create a “path” which our children can follow that leads to us when they grabble with the complexity of drug and alcohol usage. The creation of that “path” is one of the great challenges faced by any parent, but it is the parents’ responsibility to make it a priority; to work on it with an intensity and devotion that matches or surpasses the intensity and devotion we apply to anything else in our lives. Nothing is more important than our children and we must always be willing to make the sacrifices and compromises necessary so that our children will at least have the option of coming to us when they are confronted with those “crossroad” moments that will go a long way in defining their character and future.

Parenting at the “Crossroads”