The school year is quickly coming to a close, which, for teens, means prom, graduation, summer, and freedom. In my parent trainings I share the teens definition of freedom compared to our definition of freedom, but for this conversation, let’s talk about prom, graduation, summer, and at-risk sexual activity. Whether you realize or not, there is often a connection, a common thread between all of these topics.
Working in the unplanned pregnancy clinic environment for so many years, I’ve been able to recognize patterns for high numbers of teen pregnancy verifications. Here are the patterns I’ve noticed:
1. School closures from snow days leading to lots of days off, out of routine, with mom and dad and work, and no place to go.
2. Two to three weeks after spring break, our texts and calls from teens increase.
3. Two to three weeks after prom, our texts, calls, and walk-ins from teens increase.
4. Two to three weeks after graduation…
5. Two to three weeks after summer starts …
Are you tracking with me here? I ask teens that question in the classroom a lot. Now, parents, I’m asking you.
All of these occasions or maybe “seasons” in a teen’s life bring on additional and more serious issues–peer pressure, drugs and alcohol, and the decision of whether or not to engage in at-risk sexual activity. Because of these connections and concerns, these seasons can be an especially worrisome time for some parents. So, parents, here are a few common-sense tips to help us all out:
Communicate your expectations and set boundaries. Good parenting is, in part, based on good communication and that’s particularly important during the occasions of a teen’s life that have often been over dramatized and over sexualized. Talk about your expectations. What behavior is acceptable? What isn’t? What are the consequences if they don’t follow your rules? Don’t be vague. Be clear about your concerns for their health and safety and find out how they plan to avoid situations they might later regret. And parents, most importantly, don’t just follow the best friend parenting crowd. Process through this personally and determine what you, as the parent of your child, are most comfortable with.
Talk about at-risk sexual activity, in clear terms. If you need help with this, grab my book, it provides the foundation for these types of conversations. Don’t limit the conversation to one big talk. Instead, have an ongoing discussion about your values and beliefs. Be honest, show respect, and listen to your child. Encourage them to consider the physical and emotional consequences of at-risk sexual activity and, if they have a boyfriend and or girlfriend, consider opening up this dialogue with them as well. I know for many parents this seems odd, but if they are dating your son or daughter, you really do have an opportunity upon you to share your thoughts and concerns, in a respectful, appropriate manner.
Ask the right questions. In my book I discuss the value of the “who, what, when, where, why, how concept.” It’s a great strategy for training your teen to process through the potential benefits and the potential consequences ahead of time. For example, using Prom and the common scenarios connected to it: Who are you going to the prom with? Where is the prom being held? Who are the chaperones? When will you check in? How will you communicate your boundaries for the night? If you’ve consented to after-prom activities, make sure you know exactly what their plans are. Where is the after-party? Will there be parents in attendance at the party? Will there be drugs or alcohol at the party? What is the phone number of the place where the party will be held? If you don’t like the answers to any of these questions, exercise your right as a parent and don’t allow them to go. Make sure you and your teen agree upon a plan well before they walk out the door.
Stay in touch. Make sure you are on stand-by and reachable by phone the entire time your teen is participating in these activities. Yes, they are older, and nearing adulthood and going off to college. But establishing a few mandatory call-in/text-in times throughout the evening is still acceptable. Don’t allow your teen to tell you otherwise. If your teen has a cell phone, have them set alarms for the check-in times.
Who will have their hands on the wheel? And is it someone that can truly be trusted? Make sure you know how your teen is getting to and from the locations connected to these occasions. Your teen should be able to identify ahead of time who is driving and whether or not they understand the responsibility for the lives of the passengers in their vehicle. If your teen is riding in a limo or using Uber, check the company’s policy on allowing alcohol in the vehicle. Do not assume anything!
I hope you find these tips helpful. There are many more in my book. My desire is that these tips will help your teen enjoy these occasions in a healthy, safe, and memorable way, and help you enjoy them in a quiet, stress-free way, as the parent.
Check out my book: Let’s Talk About S~E~X
|TODAY’S INTERCONNECTED CULTURE||Sexual Risk Avoidance: Conversation Starters|
|TODAY’S INTERCONNECTED CULTURE|
|Sexual Risk Avoidance: Conversation Starters|