Clinical research shows the hairs on the heads of parents of teens get noticeably grayer on Friday and Saturday nights. (Assuming previous teen shenanigans haven’t already caused you to pull out all of yours.) I probably should have written this blog on Thursday so you’d have it in advance of the weekend. But no worries. There’s no expiration date on advice for dealing with a teen’s poor judgment. If you don’t need this now, save it. It’ll come in handy sooner or later.
I recently got an email from Distraught Parent describing how Teen Daughter had purportedly gone to a friend’s sleepover (Just us girls). In the wee hours of the Saturday AM Parent receives call from local law enforcement reporting that Daughter and two equally Clueless Friends have been picked up riding in car driven by Drunk Teen Boy. Daughter comes home, announces: “I don’t want to talk about it!” and proceeds to sleep for the rest of the day. Parent describes how Daughter’s had a “rough” semester, has been “sad” for months and how her grades have plummeted from A’s to C’s. What to do??
Here’s my reply:
I’m relieved to hear your daughter’s choice to ride with a drunk driver didn’t end in tragedy for her or anyone else. I’m sure you are too! Sounds like something’s been going on with her for a while and this is the capper. (So far!)
Yesterday she didn’t want to talk and that’s OK for yesterday. It’s not an option for today.
She needs to talk and you need listen. (I mean really listen.) If you lay into her with The Lecture she’s going to shut down. She knows she blew it, but the real question is WHAT’S GOING??
Have the fact-finding conversation today. Let her know how you felt when you got the 4 AM call. Let her know that your TRUST in her honesty, her ability to make good choices and to keep herself safe has been shredded. Let her know that you know things haven’t been easy for her lately. Let her know you love her and it’s your job to keep her safe and to help her sort through the challenges she’s facing. Let her know she can talk to you anytime and that you will NOT throw anything she tells back in her face.
Do your best to help her figure out why certain choices she’s making aren’t in her own best interest. That’s the best you can work towards. You are her mentor, teacher and guide but you can’t live her life for her.
Your daughter deserves a meaningful consequence for her irresponsible and dangerous choice on Friday night. And you both deserve some professional help in rebuilding the trust and improving the communication between you.
Like I said at the top, teens aren’t known for their prescient decision-making. In the best of situations, their “still-under-construction” brains often works against them. Add alcohol/drugs, sexual tension, peer pressure, sleep deprivation and a whole host of other stressors and it’s tough for them to do the right thing, which often includes resisting the wrong thing!
The more we calm down, tune in to our teens and listen to them attentively and compassionately, the more likely they’ll let us know the kind of support they need from us during a rough semester and beyond.