Last night at dinner, friends posed a very good question. If Alex was a bright rebellious 13 year old again what would you look for and try to change.
Many many things came to mind immediately when you think about what would I do different. We've ask ourselves that question 100's of times but my time machine still has a few bugs so I am reluctant to begin human testing. But quickly I came up with 3 things we didn't think were so critical but in hindsight we believe had a huge impact on his life today.
1. Know your child's friends. I don't mean the names or stories. Know them, their habits, their parents and what they are interested in. If your child talks about his friends but they do not hang out at your house. They won't bring them over to meet you or let you get to know them. RED FLAGS!!! Your child knows you won't approve if you are not allowed to meet and hang with his friends too.
2. Skate parks mix all ages. you will find 10 years to 19 year old at these places. When younger kids mix with older kids the younger kids will soak up every bad habit and word the older ones do and say. We may think that 17 year old and maturity is an oxymoron but 17 year old does have a different maturity level than a 14 year old and 14 year old idolize and worship being a part of an older group. Teenagers belong with their own age, sometimes even 1 year difference can make a difference, especially if you have a mature 16 and an immature 15 year old. Why am I picking on skate parks? Skate parks are unsupervised and most of the time I see very few parents sitting there just watching their 14 year old son for hours on end skating.
3. Your child's group, click, gang, buds or whatever you want to call it. Whoever you child is hanging with is a mirror image of your child. If your child is hanging with some bad characters and you make excuses that "my kid is a good influence on them." (we did this) I got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale and it is a bargain price just for you and you only.
These three things were just from the top of my head. The common thing that is overriding in these three things is you must be involved in your kids life. We were involved but sometimes bad things still happen. What haunts us is "what if, what if, and what if." My thoughts are, when you think you are involved, just try a little harder and insist on a little more involvement and intervention. We all know how much a teenager wants their parents in there life, most of them are actually begging for it, right? "No" and "leave me alone" and "treat me like an adult" are not permission slips for us to abdicate our responsibility.
I wanted to post some things about this, and maybe list something that you can do before they start down the wrong path. You go to the drug prevention sites and you get a lot of info about how to tell if your kid using. Bad grades, mood changes, being secretive, these are things after the horse left the barn. If you have read this far and have other thoughts we'd love to have a list of ideas from people that have had the experience.
This isn't a list of do this, then everthing will be fine. These are just some thoughts of parents that have been there.