The lies, the deceit, the disappointment. Now what?
The teen years are a time of self-discovery, peer pressure and societal expectations. Some kids find their way without ever experimenting with alcohol or drugs, others may use it to fit in with their peers or relieve stress. Even the "good" kids make mistakes in their decision making occasionally. You'll find yourself asking...
"Can I ever trust her again?" "How can I stop being so angry?"
There are 5 keys to moving forward:
Acknowledge your feelings
You may be mad, scared, disappointed, and ashamed all within the first few days of discovering the news. Sometimes it helps to take a few minutes, gain some perspective and then talk to your teen. Explain to her that your anger comes from fear of a few things:
She could have been hurt or hurt someone else, or worse
Her behavior is showing signs of bad judgement
She is allowing others to be a negative influence on her
Today's decisions will have an affect on tomorrow's events (college and career)
Use "I" Statements
Using "I" statements is key to expressing your feelings, expectations, or frustrations. "I am so disappointed in your decisions" shares your feelings while keeping communication open. When parents start a sentence with "You..." children feel blamed and may either be defensive or just stop listening.
This is the time to learn from your child. "What were you thinking?!" may only get you a quick "I don't know" response. Instead, ask how they were feeling at the time. Did they struggle with the decision to drink a beer? Did they wish they had a way to get out of the situation?
Listen with intent. Discover more about your child and her "friends." The following questions may help:
"Are these kids who also had a moment of bad decision making or is this typical behavior?"
"What do they offer in the way of friendship?
"Friends help you make good choices and want the best for you...do these kids do that for you?"
Instead of punishing in the heat of the moment, take time to cool off then assign consequences that are directly related to the misbehavior. For instance, if she was at a party when she said she'd be at a friend's house then some options for consequences could include:
Being grounded for a few weekends
Gradual reinstatement of freedom with check ins with parents if she is going to a friends's home
Eventually she may gain increased freedom as better choices are made
Forgive and Trust Again...slowly
This is one of the hardest parts of the teen/parent relationship. Forgiving your child means accepting her apology, feeling confident she understands her mistake and will use this as a learning experience.
Forgiveness does not include a free pass to make the same mistake again! Her behavior served as an indicator of how much responsibility and trust you can give her going forward. Once trust is lost, she will have to work hard to regain it through appropriate behavior, showing growth and responsibility.
One last thing...don't beat yourself up! Kids make mistakes, it's part of the growing process. Use this opportunity to show her you love her while also making it clear that all choices have consequences. Be patient and consistent, it will pay off!
For additional strategies to help your kids avoid the trap of substance abuse or peer pressure to use, check out Part 1 of this series: Teens and Drugs: A Proactive Approach
Struggling with your teen? For additional tips and strategies, join the Dare to Parent FB group. It's a safe place to talk about the hard parts of parenting!