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Helping Teens Make Healthy Choices Mom, Dad, your teen’s world is far different than the one you and I grew up in

Written by Donna Golob. Posted in Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on October 09, 2013 with No Comments

 Helping Teens Make Healthy ChoicesIf you have a child that is just beginning middle school, then you are watching a complete transformation unfold.  Around fifth grade, your child began to live in two opposing worlds.  One was created by their parents.  One is sculpted by the powers outside the home.  Their season of sweet innocence has begun to clash against a cruel world of overexposure.

Now, I’m not an anti-world kind of person that believes we should shelter our teens from all evil.  But I’m painfully aware of the coping skills needed to navigate through a dangerous world.  Your pre-teen will need a new set of skills to help them steer through the maze of choices in middle school and throughout their high school years.

When the two worlds collide … innocence and overexposure … be sure you stay right by their side.

Let’s look at two examples.  Profanity that was once taboo is now commonplace and widely-accepted among their peers.  Obscene lyrics, violent TV shows and video games cross the line.  In fact, they stomp all over the line and march right through.  Your teen has to cope with these realities every single day.  Any parent who chooses to ignore these realities will eventually lose communication with their teen.

I’m not saying you should immerse your family in the cesspool of cultural trends.  But we’ve got to pay attention to the seismic shift in values within our teens’ world.

Kids today are exposed to drugs at a much younger age than earlier generations and drugs are becoming accessible and culturally accepted.  Many parents deny their kid would ever try pot or designer drugs or even prescription drugs.

I’ve worked with teens for a long time and, more than ever, I want to warn parents to be on the lookout.  No matter how good your kid seems, be aware of their habits, their coping mechanisms, their friends and their hangout spots.

My head spins as I read the collection of percentages quoted and stated about teen alcohol use:  25 percent of kids under the age of 14 experiment with alcohol; 50 percent of kids will satisfy their curiosity of alcohol; 21 percent of kids are given alcohol by their parents; 11 percent of alcohol in the U.S. is consumed by underage kids; 56 percent of current underage drinkers (ages 12-20) reported that their last use of alcohol occurred in someone else’s home; and 30 percent reported that it occurred in their own home.

Kids that drink alcohol during their teen years have a greater chance to die in a car crash, become depressed, fail school, take their own life, develop an alcoholic lifestyle in their later years or become pregnant.  Just knowing that there’s a greater risk of unwanted consequences in the life of your child and soon-to-be teen should make you think twice about your teen and alcohol.

Here’s another percentage:  74 percent of kids turn to their parents for help.  So, somewhere between the parental stances of “just saying no” and “let’s not interfere with our teen’s choices,” there should be the opportunity for healthy discussions with your teen about their potential or current alcohol use.

I urge you to take this issue seriously. There is a 100 percent chance that your teen will be offered alcohol by their peers, probably at some time that they don’t want to be “left out.” They will likely have to make a decision about getting into a car with someone who has been drinking. This is the real world and parents need to be preparing them to face those challenges.  Believing that those scenarios will never happen to your child is about as wise as thinking your child will never make a mistake, a bad choice or let their curiosity overcome their better judgment.

Discuss your family consequences for drinking alcohol or doing drugs and communicate your expectations early.  You can’t afford to assume your kids will always be safe.  It’s a dangerous world with all too many opportunities combined with incredible peer pressure.

So let’s wake up and smell the coffee.  Times are changing.  Let’s do whatever possible to walk our teens through the minefields of danger with wisdom and discernment.  Have a plan and stay alert.

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Donna Golob is the executive director for A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH). She actively leads PATH in its mission to equip, empower and encourage teens to make healthy choices through life skills, relationship and character building education. For more information, visit www.pathblazer.org.

Believing that those scenarios will never happen to your child is about as wise as thinking your child will never make a mistake, a bad choice or let their curiosity overcome their better judgment.

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About Donna Golob

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Donna Golob is the executive director for A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH). For more information, visit www.pathblazer.org.

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