My oldest son will be seventeen this year. He worked hard to purchase a car and with that comes some new-found freedoms. He’s not home as much as he was when he depended on me to drive him around.
It’s a given that he won’t be with me on most Friday and Saturday evenings. I’ve been replaced by friends. And when he goes to the gym, he often stays longer and hangs out with his buddies chatting.
It’s my job to make sure my son stays safe
His safety and reminding him to do the right thing is at the forefront of my mind. I can’t be with him all the time and he needs to navigate his own way and become the kind of person he wants to be. I need to give him the space to do that.
But as his mom, it’s still my job to get in his head and have those sometimes uncomfortable “talks” with him. I want to make sure I do it right. I’m not blind to the fact that he will experiment with alcohol, sex, maybe drugs. After all, I was his age once and I remember the temptations and how abundant they were.
I refuse to stick my head in a hole and act like I don’t know this. I’m not going to talk to him in a way that assumes he’ll never try a beer or want to have sex. Nor will I tell him to refrain from doing all the things. I believe that the outcome you get when you tell your teenagers not to do what a lot of teenagers are going to do at some point, is a wall.
I want the lines of communication with my teen to remain open
I don’t want an obstacle coming between our communication.
So, instead of saying “Don’t have sex yet honey, wait until you are older and really understand what it means,” as I did when he was thirteen, I say, ”Make sure you are having safe sex. If you need help getting condoms, ask me. Make sure you are always prepared even if your partner says they are on birth control, you need to protect yourselves from STDs.”
Then, we move on and I remind him that no means no. It doesn’t mean try and change my mind. I tell him if someone is intoxicated and he thinks they said yes but isn’t sure, that’s a no too.
He doesn’t like this of course. It makes him uncomfortable to be this open with his mom, but it’s a small price to pay to keep the lines of communication open between us.
We have these talks in private because I don’t want his younger siblings to hear. At thirteen and fourteen, I feel like if they heard me talk like that it would be more of a granting of permission. They might think I’m giving them to go-ahead to try all sorts of things, things they are not mature enough to try.
I know if I was thirteen and my mom was telling me to make sure I had reliable birth control, I would have viewed it as more of her approval to do it. And I believe our young teenagers still need to be told they just aren’t ready for certain things and they need to be educated about why they aren’t ready.
I’d love for my teen to wait but I know that’s not realistic
I’d like to think my son will wait and have his first drink at 21. I’m hoping he’ll wait until he’s in love and committed to have sex. I wish with all my being that he’ll never touch drugs, but I also know he’ll might dabble in all these things and I want him to be prepared.
Yup, the talks with our kids changes as they grow older. It can be painful to be sitting across from your child while reminding them to call you if they ever need a safe ride home when all you want to do is scream, ”Don’t make dumb decisions. Don’t drink. Only kissing and holding hands when you are alone with a girl, okay? Then we can avoid this all together.”
But I know the world doesn’t work like that. And the one thing I want is to be the appropriate parent at the right time. That means changing the dialogue as they get older to make sure they are safe and responsible should they decide to do grown-up things.
More to Read:
50 Things You Can Do When You Turn 18 (Who Knew?) Some surprising things on this list of what changes when a teen turns 18.