Remember your teenage years? Many parents reminisce about make out parties or drinking their first beers behind the high school, almost as though these things are a rite of passage among the 12-18 year olds.
But teens today are growing up much faster and experiencing adult things much earlier in their lives, even earlier than you might have.
Consider these shocking statistics:
· 47% of high school students have experienced sexual intercourse
· 75% of high school students have consumed significant amounts of alcohol
· 50% of students have tried illegal drugs by the end of high school
· 50% of new HIV infections occur in teens
Statistics from http://sadd.org
These dangerous activities should not be considered rites of passage because they each carry their own sets of dangers. In addition to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies parents must now worry about cyberbullying, sexting, powerful new illegal drugs, and predators stalking their unsuspecting victims online through the internet and social media sites.
Here are some tips to preventing your teen from becoming another statistic:
1. Talk honestly with your teen. Yes, kids hear stuff on the bus and from their other friends but who knows if the stories they hear are accurate. Ask your teen about what they’ve heard about these subjects and if they are aware of the very serious consequences. You will likely hear the question, “Did you do this at my age?” which makes parents falter. If your answer is, “Yes,” then answer honestly without glamorizing the behavior. Better to be honest and admit your mistakes than to be called a hypocrite when your teen discovers the truth.
2. Explain the consequences of these actions. Don’t sugar coat any of these dangers. Yes, you can die if you drink and drive or overdose on illegal drugs. HIV is not curable and will affect your future relationships. You might not go to college or achieve your dreams if you become a teen parent. Teens have a very difficult time understanding consequences and television and movies tend to glamorize alcohol and drug use. Even teen parents in the movies make life seem easy. What teens forget about is the number of teens killed in drunk driving accidents and teen mothers who kill their babies.
3. Stay up to date with your teens’ technology. Cell phones, personal computers and social media networks make it all too easy for your teen to get into trouble. Teens can easily send racy photos of themselves or others to a whole network of classmates without realizing this is considered distribution of child pornography in some states. Cyberbullying becomes anonymous and “harmless” when you text from the comfort of your home but the results to the victim can be devestating. And sexual predators know the teen lingo well enough to fool unsuspecting kids into meeting them for often dangerous rendezvous.
4. Talk about news stories involving teens. Sometimes talking about these topics is difficult because they’re abstract concepts. But suddenly a news story about teen pregnancy or drug overdoses puts a face to the problem and makes the problem much more real. Don’t just lecture to your child; ask how they feel about the story, if they know someone who’s been in that situation, or how they would handle a similar situation.
Today’s teens definitely feel more pressure than their parents, both academically and socially. They want to fit in more than ever yet succumbing to peer pressure to try these dangerous things can ultimately destroy their lives along with their family’s lives. Keeping the communication open can help your teen stay straight.
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