children cannot grow emotional maturity without our emotional nourishment. And, they cannot build emotional resilience without
our perspective and optimism. Our second Moment of Truth-Being There.
Second Moment of Truth as Parents
I remember attending a lecture back when my son was in third grade. A woman, both
doctor and educator spoke of her travels across the country talking to parents and teens about substance abuse. While I thought
I had forever to worry about such matters, She said, on the contrary, that kids were starting as early as nine years of age.
She also said something else I tucked away as valuable information when the time came. She explained that physiologically,
the younger a child, the less the body's ability to tolerate alcohol. Simple fact. She also pointed out that when
a teen goes out the door saying--don't worry, I'll only have one beer- that teen absolutely believes and means what he/she
is promising-one beer. The problem is that after
the one beer, that same teen is no longer the same person who
said not to worry. The senses have been dulled, the instincts slowed, and the ability to keep a promise, compromised. It's
ok, I'll only have two. And after two beers, the ability the keep that promise diminishes three fold, while poor judgment
rises significantly. And so on, with each beer. And one last fact. As there is no such
thing as eating one potato chip, there is no such thing as a teen drinking one beer. Teens don't "social"
drink. They drink to get wasted.
She also revealed that in all her travels and interviews with young teens from
the age of twelve to eighteen, the overwhelming majority sited being lonely and home alone as the number one reason for starting
to drink or smoke. And when? In the afternoon, after school. This finding was no different from studies done on sexual promiscuity,
or involvement in dangerous on-line chat rooms. Where? At home, alone or at a friend's when a responsible adult was not about.
These same teenagers also said they wanted
their parents around more.
If this is the case,
dear friends, we need a new game plan. We can no longer be clueless about what our kids are up to. If we are concerned and
decide to go into their rooms to clean and look around, search through papers, and backpacks and baskets, under beds, and
in drawers, so be it. I do not advocate giving a pre-teen or teenager total privacy. That is a dangerous liberty they are
not yet equipped to handle. No teen should have a locked door. And if they defiantly claim their constitutional right to such,
we can counter that when they are no longer minors, and living at home as dependents, they can have all the constitutional
rights to total privacy, they want. Until then, it is our job, no matter how unpopular, unfair, or undemocratic, to guide
and protect them. They have not yet won their independence. Privacy has to be earned. It comes with responsibility and showing
that they can make responsible choices. They will not always be able to do so. Poor judgment and making mistakes come with
the territory of growing up. We, as parents, are there to see that the mistakes do not destroy their lives and, as a result,
They need to realize, for example, that their substance abuse affects their entire family as well as their
close friends. Everyone suffers when they take dangerous risks and exhibit destructive behavior. I am not
a doctor. I do not have a degree in childhood psychology. I am a Mom and mentor and this is my MomOpinion: We do not want
to raise lonely children. It is not just-do we know where our children are? It's also-do we know if our children are lonely? In their busy, over-scheduled world, we might be very surprised to find out how terribly alone they actually feel.
We need to take a good, hard, honest look at our life and theirs. Lonely children are depressed children who will compensate
for the emptiness they feel inside. They will want to dull the ache, in any way they can. They will drink, they will smoke,
they will be promiscuous or join a gang; find a stranger on line to chat with, act out, get into trouble, do anything to belong,
feel needed, have company, or draw attention to themselves.
They are desperately seeking our involvement
and our guidance. While their words will say the exact opposite, their hearts need to feel safe and loved and only we, as
parents, can do that for them. They are still ill equipped to create their own boundaries, and we should not expect them to.
When we give them too much freedom without teaching responsibility and stating expectations before and along with that privilege,
we are basically telling them to fend for themselves without the skills and maturity necessary, and that is so terribly unfair
to them. It's like letting a small child cross the street without holding our hand. Our
older children have streets to cross, too, streets they're absolutely not ready step out into alone-yet! They need
us very badly. They need our wisdom and our clarity and our commitment to their welfare. They do NOT need us as friends. We
might be extremely unpopular, rejected, yelled at, and told hurtful things to, but this is our moment of truth as parents. If we are afraid of their anger or rejection,
and therefore, retreat, we will lose them. If we stay our ground,
they win in the end. It is left to us to see the finish line, long before they do, and
to keep telling them that there is a whole life, and future filled with possibilities, and they will have their freedom,
and their independence. Everything comes in its own time.
If we work outside the home,
we must figure out a way to keep our children close, Kids instinctively know when a career
takes precedence, over them, I know, they have told me. The pattern of two parents
working long work hours with lots of travel away from home is simply terrible for a child or teen's emotional
well being. Someone must be around-either Mom or Dad. On the other hand, kids will know
the difference and understand when parents have to work very hard, in order to give them a good education and support
a passion. They realize and accept that their parents are working and sacrificing on their behalf, and
although they still feel the loneliness, they do not feel the lack of caring. So, either we bring them
to our offices after school, or find a way to create supervised and supportive "study spots"
where they can go to do homework, and stay until we can get them.
Younger children have day-care. Older children
may have after school activities, but not a lot of supervision. Perhaps, that has to
change. We cannot allow our teens to spend long periods of time alone, or at some friend's house. They need
as much supervision as our young. They need
a responsible adult to be near. They deserve a lot of warmth and
support. They have to have us around and/or available. If we can let them see by our actions that they are our No 1 priority,
that their welfare is our number one concern, and that we are willing to sacrifice on their behalf, they will ultimately be
ok. And a good place to start would be to stay up until our teens come home. That really shows
them we care. I am constantly surprised at how many parents go to sleep before their children return home. All we have to say is-I won't go to sleep until I know you're home, safe and sound because I care. That will
definitely let them know they are not alone.
In the end, we must be there- available to talk, to listen, to support and to
comfort. If we see that too many other priorities are coming first or getting in the way, then it is time to reconfigure our
list of priorities. We cannot expect our children to learn how to take responsibility for their actions and their lives, if
we don’t first take responsibility for their welfare and their future emotional health. After discarding destructive
relationships and lifestyles, our second Parent Moment of Truth is Being There. First Parent Moment of Truth
#31,32) Letting Kids Take Responsibility
H20 to Go!
Growing Emotional Resilience and
Navigating Through Childhood
with Heart, Humor & Optimism
BY Margo Judge
H20 to Go! Copyright,
By Margo Judge
All material on this website protected.
Permission granted for reprinting with
Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)