Handling “The Other Talks”
Like talks on sex, the last thing your daughter wants is to talk to you about drinking, drugs, and other behaviors. Why? First, she thinks you know nothing and second, she thinks you know nothing.
Getting Clued In
Remember when all you had to do was flip on the after-school special to find out what teen issues were and how families were dealing with them? (Don't laugh. Sixteen and Pregnant, featuring Kirsten Dunst in her first after-school special, is probably still playing in your daughter's health class.)Today's parents have to do a lot more research to be clued in enough to know what they need to for frank discussions and, if needed, timely intervention. No matter whether the topic is sex, drug use, cigarettes, or new, “twenty-first century issues” like inhalants, the choking game, and more, you'll want to make sure, first and foremost, that you know what you are talking about.
Ask your child's school for the health curriculum and learn it yourself, a step ahead of when your child does. You may learn something new or rethink something you never considered, and you'll know what your child is hearing at school.
The Internet is a good way to get clued in too, but be wary of what you read. Be sure the source is reliable. (For help deciding if a site is reliable, go to www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/evalhealthinfo.html) Don't let unreliable sources alarm you or worse, lead you to misdirect your child. And what about learning from other parents what dangers are out there for your child? Don't discount them, but don't take their word as gospel either. Let's say another parent tells you a lot of children in your daughter's grade have been smoking cigarettes (or drinking). Rather than approach your daughter with a “Mrs. Jones says,” read up on the statistics of how many kids her age smoke, and then try to poll some parents of older kids: have they noticed such behavior as kids grow up? Then decide if it's something you need to discuss in more detail with your child.
Talking Never Hurts
Keep in mind that talking about a potential risky situation is never going to hurt anything, so it's always better to bring it up then shy away from it. The notion that parents can introduce a potential risky behavior to a child is not a reality. Wishing away a potential issue or hoping that by never addressing it you'll never have to deal with it is as dangerous as the “wishful thinking” your child may do around lies and risky behavior. Set the example by finding somewhat less awkward and always mature ways to talk about risky behaviors with your child. In the end, you'll be glad you were open from the start, even if it was uncomfortable for both of you from time to time.