There are numerous things you likely want to tell your son. However, it is imperative that the following 10 conversations take place. Remember that how and when you talk is just as important as what you say.
Picking a Career Versus a Job
Almost anyone can get a job, and a job can be a very wonderful thing. It can provide you with money to spend on important things like rent, heat, electricity, and food. It can help teenagers pay for car insurance or movies.
The problem is that a job isn't all it's cracked up to be for the long haul, other than paying for necessities. Most people are much happier in a career or following a passion. Teach your son the difference between a career and a job.
Your son needs to know that sometimes on his way to a career, a job is a necessity. He needs to know how to decide what his passion is and how to turn it into a career. This includes what subjects to take in high school, picking a major in college, and how to spend his free time in order to make his dreams come true.
A true passion often leads to a rewarding career. Your son should try to do different things to see what he likes. There are also great programs, tests, and books to help him along the way. Many high schools and some colleges offer programs to help students explore options.
Your son wants your love. He's always wanted it; from the time he was a small boy, you have been the person he's looked up to and wanted attention and love from. This isn't going to change as he grows up. What does change is that you aren't always around to give him the attention and love he needs because he's not always home or he makes choices that are not great. This all leaves him feeling left in parent-love limbo.
Even when your son has left home, remind him of that you love him. Send him a random card or note that simply says you're thinking of him and love him. This kind of love is difficult to come by and yet so important.
Living with Purpose
Purpose is what should drive your life. It helps motivate you and helps make life worth living. Letting external factors dictate your purpose doesn't work because purpose has to come from within. This can be very difficult for parents and teens to understand. Part of it, for parents, is letting go and letting your child explore his own dreams and desires. Let your son know he has a purpose. He is the only one who can determine his purpose and use it to fulfill his life.
Your Experience with Drugs and Alcohol
You may think you need to come clean about your personal use of drugs and alcohol or talk about your teen exploits. This really depends on you and your son. Sometimes confession may feel good for the soul, but your son may not be able to handle it. Part of this also depends on your personal story.
You don't necessarily need to go into deep detail, but the general gist of it might be best. It may be difficult to admit to your son that you did some things in your life that weren't the brightest or that you made decisions you now wish you could change. But it also shows your son that you are a human being and don't do everything right all the time either. This is painful for many parents to admit, but it is important for your son to hear. Believe it or not, he probably idolizes you.
Remember that the discussion of drugs and alcohol is not a one-time talk. Such discussions should start early and happen often. It's often something said at just the right time that clicks, even if it wasn't a time you were intentionally trying to make a point.
When you're having these conversations with your son, remember that he thinks differently than you do. First of all, he feels indestructible. Secondly, he can't really think too far into the future. In his mind he will always be young and healthy. Bad things don't happen to him or to people he knows. This is why arguments about drugs often fall flat on teen ears.
Remind your son of your stance and no-tolerance policy. Also remind him that you will do whatever you can to keep him safe and that you are only a phone call away. This means no matter what time or where you are, you are a safe ride.
How to Drive a Stick Shift
Before he leaves home, your son needs to know about cars — and not just how to identify one or talk about the hottest model. He needs to know how to drive and how to handle basic car repairs, and to understand basic insurance pointers.
Your son should learn these things even if he doesn't have a driver's license. He needs to know at least the following:
How to drive both a manual and an automatic
Car-insurance basics, including the difference between comprehensive and liability insurance
The importance of manufacturer-recommended maintenance
How to check the oil, and when and where to get it changed, if he can't do it himself
How to put windshield-wiper fluid in the car
How to find and change a spare tire
How to fill the gas tank
Where to find his insurance information in the vehicle
What to do if there is an accident, including whom to call
Hopefully the car won't be a big source of problems between your son and your family. He may love to drive or he may hate it, but he needs to have a basic understanding of what's going on.
The Facts of Life: Money
Money is a currency that your son needs to speak fluently to do well in today's world. He needs to know not only how to make money but how to spend it wisely. This means having discussions about budgeting, credit, and saving.
Budget is not a four-letter word. A budget is something to help your son keep track of his money, and sticking to one is every bit as important as balancing a checkbook register. This can prevent frantic calls from your son trying to explain negative bank balances and bouncing checks.
Credit card companies are likely to approach your son as soon as he turns eighteen — and sometimes even earlier. The key is going to be what you've taught him about credit.
Most financial experts agree that Americans in general don't save enough. It is your job to impress upon your son the benefits of savings. Sit down with him and draw it out. How much money he can save may vary, but even when he isn't making a lot of money, $25 saved per paycheck can add up.
Real men do cry. It's important that you explain this to your son. Growing up without the benefit of being around men who are open about their emotions can lead to many issues for your son. It can also hinder many of his relationships in the future because of his inability to share his emotions with others. Repressing emotions can also be physically and emotionally harmful. Emotionally, you can suffer from stress, which might lead to actual physical illnesses like ulcers and other stress-related illnesses. It can also lead to inappropriate behaviors, like problems with anger.
People Versus Stuff
In this day and age, there is stuff everywhere. The accumulation of things is seen as tantamount to almost anything else in life. It is very easy to get carried away with the gathering up of stuff.
Your son needs stuff (cell phone, computer, the right clothes) to be popular with his friends. It is important to make sure he understands that stuff won't make him happy or popular or content; these feelings do not derive from materials goods but from being a good person and helping others.
It isn't wrong to want material objects. The key is to not be focused on them. When your son wants a special object, make him earn it. That will likely attach some physical and mental value to the object. Your son may think, “I really love my new iPod because I worked all summer mowing lawns to earn it.”
It is also wise to teach your son that people are not objects. He can't trade people for things and vice versa. He should treat people with respect in every interaction. Remind him to ask how he would want to be treated when the right answer doesn't come automatically.
This can also lead to a discussion about using people. It's wrong to be a friend to someone only to get concert tickets or to be near someone else. This constitutes using the person and abusing their friendship. The same goes with physical benefits. Dating someone for a physical or sexual relationship doesn't make for a great relationship. It robs both people of something important.
The past is fascinating. Your son will be naturally curious about what your life was like when you were growing up. While he doesn't want to hear the typical “When I was your age … ” lectures or how you walked to school uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes, he probably does want to hear what you did for fun, what you thought about friends, life, and growing up.
He may ask you what you thought your life would be like. Be honest with him, even if you aren't doing what you expected to be doing at this point in your life. This is the kind of honesty he looks for in his parents.
Talking to your son about your past is the perfect opportunity to pass on traditions. These small things that mean so much are easily lost. Some of these traditions will surround your family holidays or religious holidays. Birthdays are also times when many traditions occur. Try to live them with your child. Sit down and write them all out; this can actually make a very nice gift for a graduation or a wedding.
Your son many want to know all about your relationship as his parents. He may have questions that you may or may not want to answer. The benefit of sharing your personal story with him is more than mere personal history for him; it provides him with the details of love in a personal context. Your story is more important for him to hear than the stories of love and sex portrayed on television and in music and movies.
Share with your son how you met. What did you feel for each other? Was it love at first sight or did love grow slowly? Talk about the romance. When did you realize you were in love? How did you share this realization with each other? Were the feelings reciprocated? Physically what happened? This might get a bit uncomfortable, so go slowly and share only what feels appropriate.
Talk to your son about how your experiences have shaped what you say to him about love and life. It might really surprise your son to hear such an honest opinion of love in someone he knows. It is also okay to talk to him about the reality of a failed relationship, as long as you are honest with him. This isn't the time or place to bash his other parent; it is simply a statement of the truth. If this is done in a kind and loving way, he can grow and learn from this relationship.
Love can be one of the toughest things to learn about without experiencing it yourself. It is also good to hear a factual account of real-life love. Kids are often overwhelmed when the reality of romance doesn't match the movies. Be sure to talk to them about the morning after the wedding, not just the wedding itself.
Your son might think you expect him to grow up and be a parent just like you are. First of all, tell him it is completely his decision. Not everyone has children; some people remain childless, either by choice or because of life circumstances. Talk about how he feels toward parenting in general. Is it something he plans on?
If he plans on being a parent, talk to him about his ideal parent. Let him know that you are aware of the fact that you made mistakes. Let him know that you recognize he will have his own parenting style and make decisions that will be different from those you made.
Tell him about pregnancy — the decision to become pregnant or the shock and surprise you felt when you learned you were going to be a parent. Talk to him about making the decision and enjoying those moments. Talk to him about how important parenting is and how it starts before birth.
Talk to him about how you feel about grandparenting. Tell him what you hope to share with him and his potential children. Let him know that you will love him no matter what he decides to do.