When Your Child Comes Home Drunk

It is well-known that teenagers are in a stage of experimentation – they are exploring the world around them, the world of relationships and their own inner landscape. What feels right? What creates pleasure? What is meaningful? What relieves stress? What brings social, academic and personal success?

Somewhere along the way, most teens will encounter alcohol. Some will like what they find, indulging the substance more and more in order to gain social acceptance or psychic relief or both. Others will find that they don’t like the feeling that alcohol gives them and will move away from it toward other, healthier forms of stress relief and happiness. And some will find a small place in their lives in which to place consumption of alcoholic beverages – certain social situations like celebrations and other special gatherings. No matter what kids ultimately decide to do with alcohol, however, many will get drunk at least one time.  Some will do so accidentally, simply not knowing their limits. Others will do so intentionally. No matter how it happens, however, parents have to know how to handle the situation.

Below are some tips in handling a teenager who comes home drunk:

Stay Calm
There is such a thing as a “teaching moment.” This is a moment in which the child is calm and coherent and a moment in which the parent is also calm and coherent.  When either child or parent is not fully present due to overwhelming emotions (like anger, grief or fear) or impaired consciousness (i.e. not fully awake, drunk or stoned) no learning will occur.  In fact, talking to a drunken person is futile; alcohol significantly impairs comprehension and inhibition — your drunk teen doesn’t have the mental capacity to process your message, nor the ability to explain things properly. Therefore, when your child comes home drunk, wait until he or she sobers up before you try to deal with the issue. Let the child sleep it off – the best time to talk is likely to be the day after the incident.

Take the intervening time to settle your own nerves. You might be feeling alarmed, enraged, disappointed or otherwise extremely upset. Emotion, especially of an intense, hysterical or dramatic kind, will work against your goals. Remember – you shouldn’t be addressing the issue at all until you are calm enough for your child to be able to take you very seriously. This talk will be an important one – you don’t want to appear off-balance while you are trying to make important, life-impacting remarks. Staying calm, you help give your teen someone to take seriously, look up to and respect. You increase your power to provide education and guidance when you come across as a loving, concerned, firm, clear, knowledgeable and trustworthy adult. Try to get into that state before you hold a meeting with your teen!

Emergency Intervention
Do call your local emergency medical information line if your child’s state concerns you. You can describe your child’s behavior in the intoxicated state and if there is a concern, an ambulance will be sent out. It’s always better to err on the side of caution – there is no reason NOT to call and describe symptoms unless the symptoms are barely noticeable. However, sometimes a child is barely conscious. Sometimes he can’t stop vomiting. Sometimes he is experiencing alcohol poisoning. Unless you already know what to look for, make the call.

Appropriate Response
Even if you think it’s kind of “cute” or funny the first time your child comes home drunk, you should consider the importance of refraining from showing any kind of pride or pleasure in this behavior. Remind yourself that teens are very easily addicted and that addiction will bring them much suffering. Their careers, their relationships and their health can suffer serious negative consequences. Their drunken state can lead to their own or someone else’s death or permanent disability. A teenager may misread your cues, thinking that you are encouraging self-destructive behavior. Be careful to respond seriously and responsibly. Your child’s future is at risk. Everything you say and do at this critical time can have a life-long impact. Refrain from helping your child avoid current consequences of this particular episode – do not cover up. Help him to learn that there CAN be negative consequences. If nothing bad happened during this episode, then make sure you discuss with him at some point, what CAN happen when a person is drunk.

Know Where You Stand
Different parents have different rules on drinking; some demand total abstinence from alcohol, others allow drinking in moderation. Regardless of where you stand on the drinking issue, it’s important you address the situation of your teen coming home intoxicated. Alcohol is an easy drug to abuse. As previously stated, it can also be a dangerous drug leading to life-threatening accidents, legal problems and health problems. You might want to do some research to find out more about alcohol, the state of intoxication, addiction and other issues so that you can talk knowledgeably to your child. Inviting your child to do research WITH you might be even better! It’s best to create rules and guidelines that make sense in the light of the information you have about alcohol – such rules are more likely to be taken seriously by your child. Rules that “make no sense” tend to be defied by older kids. If you and your child do research together, you two can also formulate reasonable guidelines.

First Time Only
If this is the first time your child has come home drunk, education is the correct intervention. Punishment should be avoided. In fact, don’t mention negative consequences at all. If it happens again, however, make a rule that there will always be severe consequences for this in the future. The first two episodes are for education only – not punishment. All other episodes require heavy negative consequences (see the 2X Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe).

Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If you think your child is already abusing alcohol habitually, or is at risk of becoming an alcoholic, contract a substance abuse counselor. Alcoholism is an incurable, progressive and fatal disease – it’s best  to intervene as soon as possible.

Confronting a Child Who Has Lied

Kids sometimes lie. They do so for many reasons (to avoid punishment, because of embarrassment, because of an overactive imagination and so on), but no matter why they do it, parents must know what to do to help them stop doing it. The way a parent confronts a lying youngster can make the difference between whether that child lies less or more in the future.

If you know or suspect that your child has been lying, consider the following tips:

Consider Your Child’s Motivation for Lying
Is your child lying in order to protect someone else (“Sarah’s parents don’t want her spending time with her boyfriend so I agreed to pretend that she and I were going to Karen’s house to sleep over.”)? Is he or she lying in order to avoid an unpleasant task (“No I don’t have any homework tonight”)? Is the lie designed to avoid punishment (“No I didn’t break the vase.”) Perhaps the lie is meant to avoid embarrassment (“Yes I passed all my subjects”).

Think about the possible reason for the lie BEFORE you confront the child. This can help you be more effective in using Emotional Coaching – the naming and accepting of the child’s feelings. Emotional coaching makes the child feel understood and accepted instead of defensive. It helps the child WANT to hear what you have to say and WANT to cooperate with you. Emotional coaching reduces defiance and deception. An example of emotional coaching for a child who wants to protect her friend, might be the following, “You’re a very good friend to Sarah and of course you don’t want her to get into trouble with her parents. I know you are trying to help her.”

After providing this kind of acknowledgment of her motivations and feelings, you can then go on to give instruction and correction: “The problem is that Sarah’s parents love her probably even more than you do and they make certain rules for her because they want to protect her. This issue is really between Sarah and her parents and it’s not right for you to get involved. Most importantly, Sarah is asking you to lie for her, which isn’t what a good friend does. Good friends bring out the best in each other and don’t encourage each other to become worse people. Sarah is asking you to harm your relationship with US in order to help her continue to defy her parents. I don’t think that this is fair of her to ask you, but you have to decide that for yourself. The only thing that we want you to know is that if you lie to us in the future, you will certainly erode our trust in you and that will not be good for your relationship with us. Right now we give you lots of privileges and free reign because we trust you –  but that could all change if you continue to be dishonest.”

Notice that this approach appeals to the parent-child relationship and also appeals to logic. The “punishment” implicit here is damage to the relationship. This approach works particularly well with adolescents. It is possible to combine Emotional Coaching with discipline, however, as might be appropriate for a child who lies about his uncompleted homework. “I know you don’t enjoy doing homework and I fully sympathize with you. It’s a lot more fun to play games on the computer. However, when you lie about completing your homework you may be compromising your grades and I don’t want that to happen. Therefore, in the future when I find that you are lying about the amount of homework you have you will lose computer privileges for 48 hours.”

Avoid Anger
One of the most common reasons kids lie is to avoid parental wrath. Often kids grow up and become adults who lie to their spouses because they expect – based on childhood experiences with their parents – that making mistakes can get them into BIG trouble. Encourage truth-telling by keeping your confrontations quiet, respectful and low-key. Effective discipline (like the 2X-Rule described in detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) replaces the need for anger. You can use the 2X-Rule to give appropriate, moderate discipline when necessary. Consider the following example:

You discover that $100.00 is missing from your purse. You are certain your son took it because you see that he has a new gadget that he told you his friend bought for him as a gift and you know that this particular gadget costs around $80.00 – and you are pretty sure none of his friends would spend that kind of money on him. How do you get him to acknowledge what he did and make restitution? Not by getting mad! In fact, the madder you get, the more likely it is that your son will lie to you in the future in order to avoid your anger. Instead, you can follow these steps:

  • Speaking very quietly and slowly, refraining from drama or emotion, you confront him by saying something like, “I have good reason to believe that you took $100.00 out of my purse last week.”
  • If your son denies it, look him in the eye and very slowly repeat your statement with minor modifications: “It’s possible that I’m wrong – I didn’t have a camera rolling – but I’m fairly certain you took it. I put the money in the purse late Wednesday night, didn’t move the purse, and discovered it missing Thursday morning at sunrise, before anyone came into the house. Only God knows for sure what happened to it so I’ll just say this: If you did take that money, I’m going to assume it was a mistake and that  you will find a way to put it back in my purse some time over the next few  days and that  you’ll never do such a thing again. However, if you really didn’t take it, then I don’t want you to replace it. Just be honest with yourself and with me. I’ll assume that if you don’t replace it, you never took it to begin with and this is my mistake – for which I am apologizing in advance. However, if money ever goes missing from my purse again, the whole family will have to go for family counseling to discover what is going on in our house.

Do Not Trap a Child into Admitting the Truth
Suppose you just learned that your daughter lied to you about the location of a party she was attending. She knew that you didn’t want her to go to parties with certain kids and in fact, the party she wanted to go to was at one of those kid’s houses – so she gave you a different address. When a friend telephones for your daughter, she accidentally reveals the actual address of the party. Now you know for a fact that your daughter lied. When your daughter returns home, DO NOT play questioning games designed to trap her in her lie. For instance, let’s say she told you that the party was at Erica’s house. Do not do something like this: “How’s Erica? How’s her mom and dad? Were they at the party? Did you say hello to them for us?” and so on. Being sneaky with your kids just encourages them to be sneaky back to you!

Instead, be straight: “We know that the party was not at Erica’s house – it was at Ian’s place. You lied to us.” Continue with Emotional Coaching: “I guess you knew we wouldn’t be pleased and you felt you just had to go, so the only way to make it happen was to lie.” Continue with education and information: Do you think that we are trying to hurt you when we ask you not to go to parties with those kids? What do you think our motivation is? Do you think we are too protective?” Do not be hostile or sarcastic when asking these questions. You are simply trying to help your youngster think through what she has done. You want her to conclude that you love her and you are trying to help her. If she insists that you are well-intentioned but misguided (“You don’t know them Mom! Sure they drink too much, but they’re really nice and they don’t drive when they’re drunk so there’s really no problem!”), let her know that you cannot agree to allow her to do things you think are life-threatening, illegal or immoral. If she does these things, there will be negative consequences, but if she lies and does them, the consequences will be much greater. This method works only when the relationship between you and your child is a good one. If you are too strict, controlling or critical, your child will be more likely to defy you because there is very little to lose. If, on the other hand, you are loving, warm and positive, the child will not want to risk losing your affection and support and will be more likely to comply with your requests.

Avoid Excessive Punishment
Even when you have to discipline a child for lying, be careful to choose moderate negative consequences. Always warn the child before giving a punishment (“From now on, if I find that you have lied, such & such consequence will occur.”). Punishments that are too intense are more likely to backfire, causing the child to lie more in the future in order to avoid harsh punishments (see “Avoid Anger” above for a similar problem). For a selection of reasonable punishments, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

When There is a Chronic Pattern of Lying
If you find that your child is lying frequently rather than on rare occasions, your child has a problem that requires your attention. Again, anger and upset on your part will be counterproductive – destructive instead of helpful. Instead, express sadness that there is a serious problem. (“It seems that you don’t feel comfortable being honest with me. I can see we have a serious problem here that we have to address.”) Arrange for professional assistance in the form of family counselling. A therapist can help help discover the reasons for a child’s persistent dishonesty and develop an effective treatment plan.

Curfew

Teenagers are getting ready for independent adult living. They have a strong drive to explore the world and gain greater control over their time and actions; they yearn for greater freedom. Although parents may feel insulted or hurt, cialis their kids are not so much trying to escape from home as they are trying to run toward their own futures.

A much sought-after freedom at this point in a young person’s life is the freedom to stay out late with friends. Parents, however, remain loving and protective – they are concerned about their child’s safety and well-being. For this reason, they still want to set curfews – times that their child must be home by. Parents also tend to want to know where their teens are going and who they’re with. Adolescents, on the other hand, are often loathe to provide this information, feeling that it is an intrusion on their precious privacy. It’s important to find the middle ground between the child’s developmental needs and the need that parents have to be responsible guardians. The curfew issue must be negotiated in some sort of win-win way.

If curfews are an issue in your house, consider the following tips:

A Good Negotiator Listens Well
Invite your teen to express his or her needs and wishes around a curfew. Let the child talk openly. Repeat and summarize what you hear. Go slow – don’t rush to correct, advise or reply. It’s more important to listen well, naming the feelings that are being expressed (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for tips on Emotional Coaching – the best way to listen). Your goal is to understand your child’s needs and respond to them as best you can. It’s important to be flexible and to give your child a chance to prove that he or she can be responsible. Your flexibility and the child’s responsibility are a great team when it comes to curfews!

Respect the Normal Need for Increasing Independence
Except in unusual circumstances, it’s best to allow the curfew itself to do the work. Don’t call your child when he or she is out – that behavior directly contradicts the child’s need for increasing independence. Don’t ask the child to check in with you either. Assume that a teenager can take care of him or herself when out for the evening, just like you don’t have to report to anyone every half hour just to show that you’re still alive! Unusual circumstances that might justify breaking this rule might be that your child is taking a long road trip and you want to know if he arrived safely at his destination, or your child is going to a place where there is likely to be some unsavory people and you have legitimate safety concerns. Obviously the need to hear from your child during his or her time away from your home should be an exception to the usual rule of “See you later!”

Experiment and Adjust
Try making tentative curfews. “We can try this curfew for this month and see how it goes.” If the child is responsible – coming home on time without trying to renegotiate the curfew each time – then that curfew can become more permanent or it might be extended by 15 minutes to see how that works. As the child proves him or herself again and again, you can continue to move the curfew to the maximum point that you feel is safe and healthy for that youngster.

Stick with Your Agreements
Although your child can have an “emergency” once in awhile, regular weekly adjustments to a curfew should not be occurring. If the curfew is midnight, for example, last minute calls home to “please extend it till 12:30” need to be discouraged by your negative response. A curfew that turns out to be impractical can be renegotiated once the child is home. Sit down and talk about the challenges of the current curfew and readjust as necessary. Do not readjust it every time the child is out! However, do try to be flexible when there are special occasions – graduation parties, New Year’s Eve and other special occasions may require a temporary extension of an otherwise static curfew.

If Necessary, Use Discipline
Once you and your child have agreed upon a reasonable curfew, expect it to be honored. The first time there is a problem (arriving any time later than 10 minutes past the curfew), apply Step 1 of the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for more details about this form of discipline). Tell the child that curfew must be honored. The second time lateness occurs, issue a warning that further breaches of curfew will always result in a punishment (name the specific punishment you have in mind – i.e. losing driving privileges for the week, losing cell phone for the day and so on). Apply consequences for every further breach, but also sit down with your teen and discuss the problem – why is curfew hard to follow? What would work better? Work together as a team – don’t make it a game or worse, a battle. In a positive relationship, it should be easy and pleasant to establish an appropriate curfew. If it is simply too difficult, then consider some professional help – a family counselor or psychologist can often help you solve the problem quickly.

Teens and Credit Cards

One way of helping a teen become financially responsible is to allow him or her to have a credit card. The trick is to make the teen fully responsible for its management. The child must have a bank account with money in it and must be responsible for keeping track of bills and payments.

By giving young adults limited financial control, parents are providing them with the opportunity to learn to make good decisions and to develop financial discipline.

Often, teens who are not earning their own money are unable to fully appreciate the real value of a dollar. For that reason, it’s best to allow your teen to have a personal credit card only after getting a part-time job or summer job that provides a financial base for its use. If this isn’t possible, however, you can provide a “salary” for “hired services”  the teen provides for you in the home (i.e. tasks that go beyond normal family responsibilities like helping in the kitchen and keeping one’s room clean). Alternatively, you can simply give your teen a steady allowance that is meant to cover not only entertainment and snacks, but also clothing, toiletries, transportation and other necessities of life. The reason for this is to help the teen learn to work within a budget to handle a large range of expenditures.

Having said all this, there are clear risks in offering a teen credit. A parent may find him or herself in the position of needing to bail a child out of unmanageable debt. Teens are, after all, inexperienced, impulsive and naive (some more than others) – characteristics that can get them into serious trouble of all kinds.

Given this is the case, how can you know if your teen can manage a credit card?

Consider Your Teen’s Personality
Is your teen a natural spender or someone who is able to save for a rainy day? Does your child tend to be impulsive, buying things that he or she never ends up using or do you see evidence of well-considered purchases?

Conduct a Test Drive
Before handing over a credit card, try simply providing a larger allowance and realm of financial responsibility to your teen. See how the youngster handles that extra responsibility. Can he or she function within the budget without coming to you for shortfalls? Is the youngster content within that budget? Is he or she making appropriate choices (i.e. buying lunch as well as t-shirts, instead of just t-shirts?). Can he or she set aside savings for large expenses and needs? “Yes” on all fronts earns a credit card. Even one “No” indicates a need for more experience and maturity before involving the bank!

Communication Skills
If you and your teen aren’t on good speaking terms, be careful about handing over credit. Your teen can get a credit card independently when he or she can present himself responsibly to a bank. Communication needs to be open so that your child can ask you questions when they arise, ask for help when it is needed and keep you informed about personal finances. Although you should not abuse the privilege, it should be possible for you to inquire about the balance on a card that you have co-signed for and you should be able to access the account. If there is no reason for you to do so, however, then DON’T. If you didn’t trust your child in the first place, you should not have provided a credit card. If you feel the need to check the monthly statement on your child’s card, the child should not have a card. Hopefully, you waited until the child showed appropriate signs of financial maturity and credit readiness. If so, everything should go smoothly. As  your teen becomes a young adult, you’ll be able to complete respect his or her financial privacy.

Another aspect of good communication involves YOUR OWN communication with your child. Be very clear – in fact, put it in writing – what the child’s credit card is for. For instance, do you want your child to use the card to buy all of his clothing, outerwear, digital devices, restaurant food and so on and so forth? Let him know what YOU are paying for and what you want HIM or HER to pay for – be as clear as possible in order to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.

Finally, enjoy watching your child become a responsible adult!

Sexual Disease

As a parent, advice you might feel queasy, troche even embarrassed, talking about sexual matters with your teenager. You might have grown up in a home when sex was not even mentioned, much less discussed in detail. Or you might be worried that talking about sex with your child will make him or her more likely to engage in it. But given the risks associated with irresponsible sexual behavior today, this is not a talk you want to miss.

Here are some important details about sexual disease and protective practices to cover in your talk, just in case you’re not up to date:

What is a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
As the term implies, sexually transmitted diseases or STDs are illnesses that can be passed through sexual contact; through vaginal intercourse, oral sex or anal sex. These illnesses can range from manageable fungal infections to debilitating and terminal diseases such as HIV-AIDS. STDs is the category used for diseases that used to be called VDs or venereal diseases.

Below are just some of the many STDs identified today:

  • Genital warts. Genital warts are caused by HPV, human papillomavirus. This virus lead to warts in the genital area as well as cervical cancer and cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus, and penis. It is spread through skin contact in vaginal or anal sex.  Eruption of warts can be painful both physically and psychologically and, since they are part of a viral process that can lead to more deadly disease, they are also a matter of serious concern. There are currently HPV vaccines available that are effective for people who have never been infected with this virus. Therefore, teens are urged to have the vaccine before engaging in their first sexual experience.
  • Gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection characterized by a yellowish discharge in the sexual organ and difficulty in urination. Untreated gonorrhea can spread to other parts of the body, such as the joints or the heart.
  • Herpes. This STD lives in the nerves and once contracted, is a permanent condition.  Herpes simplex type-1 produces cold sores around the mouth, while Herpes simplex type-2 produces sores in the genital area. The sores take the form of painful, itchy blisters. Break-outs can be prevented or minimized with daily doses of anti-viral drugs. Pregnant women can pass the virus to their babies, so they need to inform their doctor of their condition immediately. Herpes is contracted by skin-to-skin contact whether or not sores are visible to the eye at the time of contact.
  • Syphilis. Another bacterial infection, syphilis has three stages, with symptoms getting more serious as one proceeds to a later stage. Primary syphilis is characterized by a painless red sore in the genital area called a chancre. In the secondary stage of the infection, the bacteria may enter the bloodstream and cause many symptoms like fever, rashes, weight loss, muscle aches and joint pain. In its later stage, syphilis can damage vital organs like the heart and parts of the central nervous system.
  • Candidiasis. Also called thrush, this STD is caused by a fungus called Candida or what is commonly known as yeast. The infection may be minimal, causing merely irritation and itching, or it can result to more systemic health problems. Cheese-like discharge in the sexual organs, redness and a smell similar to bread are some of the common symptoms of Candidiasis.
  • HIV. HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the main culprit behind the fatal disease Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS. AIDS is a pandemic in many countries, and has caused the lost of whole communities in some areas of Africa. It’s a disease that causes a steady decline of the body’s immune system, causing susceptibility to different kinds of opportunistic illnesses. As of present, HIV has no cure, although there are drugs that can boost the immune system and improve quality of life.

How can Kids Protect Themselves from Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
It’s important that parents emphasize to their children that they can protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.

The most foolproof method of avoiding STDs is sexual abstinence. While the age of first sexual experience tends to become younger and younger every year (NBC Today’s latest survey has it at 15 years old!), it doesn’t necessarily mean that the teenage years is the recommended age to start having sex. While the physical maturity may already be present by the time kids hit the teenage years, it also takes mental and emotional maturity to engage in a sexually active relationship or a sexually active lifestyle. There is nothing to be lost by waiting until one feels more ready, or until marriage, to begin having sex.

But if your child does decide that he or she is ready, and you concur, there are ways to practice safer sex. Start by making sure that you and your partner have undergone a medical exam and have a clean bill of health before engaging in any sexual activity. While the practice of asking when a partner’s last check up was may sound unromantic, it is always better to be safe than very, very sorry.  Regular tests and visits to a gynecologist should occur as long as one is sexually active.

Opt to use contraception. As of now, it’s only the condom that is recommended for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Birth control pills and intra-uterine devices may protect a couple from unwanted pregnancy but they do not protect against STDs. Note though that a condom is not 100% foolproof; some STDs may be passed through oral sex and there are reports of condoms breaking during intercourse.

If one suspects an infection, it’s best to consult a doctor immediately. With the exception of HIV, most STDs are treatable by medicines such as some antibiotics. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis.

Drives Dangerously

A parent’s worry increases tenfold the moment a child finds his or her way  into the driver’s seat of the family vehicle. The risk of experiencing an accident is a very real one, with consequences ranging from financial annoyances all the way to serious and even fatal injuries. This risk increases significantly when a teen drives dangerously or irresponsibly.

How can parents help ensure that their child drives safely and defensively? Consider the following tips:

Be a Good Role Model
Driving responsibly is not just a matter of skill but also a matter of attitude, so make sure that from an early age, your child sees that you take road safety very seriously. Show that there is nothing that can make you deviate from a safe driving plan — even if you are already late going to a very important event. Your child should never see you engage in risky road behaviors like speeding, racing other cars, rolling through stop signs or running lights. Although your good model of mature and safe driving practices will not guarantee that your kids will do likewise, your poor model of irresponsible driving sends a clear message that road rules are for others to follow and your family is somehow exempt. This gives kids permission to take chances that could lead to disaster.

Driving is Not a Right But a Responsibility
Teens may have the idea that just because they are of age to obtain a license, they are already eligible to drive. However, you can show them that they have to earn your trust first, before they will be given the privilege of driving. For instance, you may want your child to show consistency in arriving home by curfew. You may want to see that he can give you contact information when he is out and about or that he is reliable about calling when he arrives at distant or unknown locations. You may want him to answer his cell phone when you call. These sorts of practices are more important when your child is a driver. Some parents want their driving child to be able to pay for gas, insurance or car usage as well. They want their child to have a job before they get behind the (expensive) wheel. It’s up to you to determine criteria that show trustworthiness and responsibility. However, if your child shows neither, you can expect various car-related challenges to occur on a regular basis.

Educate Your Child About the Dangers of Irresponsible Driving
Perhaps your child underestimates the dangers of driving without a seatbelt, driving while texting, racing on public roads, driving after consuming alcohol or drugs or cutting lanes. After all, if they have so far managed to get away scot-free with these behaviors, they may have an inflated sense of control over the situation. Show them examples of other teenagers who have met the negative consequences of driving irresponsibility. You may even organize a visit to the local traffic control center. Education is always the best way to protect one’s self from avoidable hazards. For instance, did you know that drivers age 15-20 years old accounted for 12% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2008? A picture is worth a thousand words; you can do some car crash research on the internet and insist that your child look at it with you.

Get Your Child a Safe Car
If you have worries over your child’s driving behavior, it’s best to ask them to stop driving until the have better skills or attitude. You can request that they take further driving lessons – the kind that addresses advanced skills and defensive driving. If your child gets speeding tickets, make sure that HE pays for them himself. If he gets into accidents, make sure that HE pays for costs involved (or contributes according to his means). When the cost or danger is repeated on several occasions, take away your child’s driving privileges for a period of time. Let him know he can try again in a few months. If, when he has the car again, the driving is equally poor, take away driving privileges for longer – he can try again in 6 months or a year (or when he’s completed his “safe driving” course upgrade). In addition, consider making sure that the vehicle the child drives rates high on safety features. A car that is easy to maneuver, and whose safety features are displayed prominently on the dashboard of the vehicle is recommended.

Keeping Teens Safe

Teenagers sometimes scare the wits out of their parents. Because adolescents are inexperienced (too young to have enough experience to know better), they can make poor decisions. Someone who has loaned an acquaintance a thousand dollars because “he promised to pay it back tomorrow” is more cautious after that experience. Unfortunately, he may have to actually lose a thousand dollars before he learns that caution is in order. That’s why older people are so much wiser: they’ve pretty well covered every mistake in the book and of course, they now know better! The teenage sense of invincibility can also lead to compromised judgment. Someone who has already learned about his fragility through an unfortunate car accident often slows down and looks both ways before going through intersections. And the teenage quality of impulsiveness (a.k.a. enthusiasm combined with reckless abandon) is perhaps the worst offender in hasty, poorly thought-out plans that turn out badly. The aging process corrects this trait, but meanwhile, parents of teenagers can be in for quite a (scary) ride. What can parents do to help their kids minimize risk?

Don’t Carry Their Fear
Let’s start with what not to do. Don’t carry your child’s fear. Are you afraid when your 17-year-old daughter walks home alone through a deserted park at midnight? You and your spouse may be the only ones experiencing that fear. Ask the daughter about it and she may say, “I was totally safe. There was no one there. I do it all the time. No one ever gets attacked there.” Why doesn’t she feel afraid? Because of the three characteristics of teenagers described below:

1. She’s inexperienced (thankfully). She has never been attacked in a park or dark alley or anywhere else. She can’t relate to the idea.
2. She thinks she’s invincible. She can’t imagine anything bad happening to her. She believes she’s in control of her world and if she wants the park to be safe, then it is safe.
3. She’s impulsive. She is making a decision based on her feelings. She wants to walk through the park at midnight, so it must be fine to do so. She’s not slowing down to think, to analyze the possible dangers and to make an alternative plan.
So it’s not her fault that she makes such a poor decision. However, if YOU are the one to feel the fear and express that fear, SHE will never feel it until she learns about it the hard way. Therefore, you must be careful to minimize your reaction. The more drama you engage in, the more ridiculous your teen will think you are and the less credibility your message will carry. Don’t be loud or emotional. Don’t throw out big threats or fancy consequences. In fact, don’t use discipline at all. These strategies will derail your mission; your child will focus on your lack of rationality, your lack of understanding, and your lack of fairness. She will not focus on the issue at hand: her dangerous behavior.

Hand Over the Fear
You want your teenager to experience his or her own fear. That’s what will keep the child safe. Do you walk alone in bad areas of town at midnight? Why not? Nobody is stopping you! You decide not to do that because you are afraid. Your fear keeps you safe.

You have to help your child feel his or her own fear. You can do this by downplaying your reaction to dangerous behavior. For example, when you learn that the child has walked through an unsafe area late at night, alone, you can say, in a quiet, calm voice, something like this: “Oh. Well, I myself wouldn’t walk there alone at night—I’d be afraid for my life. But now that you’re practically an adult, you have to make those calls for yourself; I can’t follow you around to make sure you don’t do anything foolish. Of course, if you were to ask for my advice, I’d tell you not to ever walk in risky places alone in the dark, but that’s just my opinion. You really have to decide for yourself whether you’re comfortable risking your life or coming to some traumatic harm. That’s your decision.”

A speech like that one cuts the umbilical cord sharply. It says to the child: “You better use your brains better Honey because I can’t do all your thinking for you.” When teens hear words like these from their parents, they feel real fear—often for the first time in their lives. And that’s just what’s needed, in order to help them stay safe. A teenager who worries about his or her own safety can override the characteristics of inexperience, invincibility and impulsivity. Fear is a powerful motivator. When it is in the vehicle, it always takes the driver’s wheel.

It’s scary handing the wheel over to your teen, but you don’t really have a choice. The truth is that you can’t follow youngsters around and make their brains work right. The next best thing you can do is tenderly abandon them. This immediately increases their fear. If it increases yours as well, this is only temporary. You will soon see evidence that your child is taking more precautions and trying to be safer. And this is what will help reduce your fear eventually.