You find out that your 14-year-old has been smoking, or your 15-year-old has been drinking, and launch into "The Speech" about the effects of tobacco or alcohol, mentioning the laws about the legal age for buying cigarettes or the dangers of underage drinking. Think back to the first time you experimented with either of these. How old were you?
Are we being hypocritical? If we were responsible or well-adjusted then we wouldn't have felt the need to experiment ourselves. It is the same with sex and, to some extreme, drugs.
I am not condoning the use of any of the above but my children have been raised in a house where alcohol is used, albeit in moderation, and we have both smoked and given up. We have answered any questions they have had:
"What does beer taste like, Dad?"
*proffering of glass*
"Why do you smoke, Mum?"
"Because when I was younger, I was stupid and smoked with my friends because we thought it was cool and now I'm addicted."
"Why don't you stop smoking, Mum?"
"I don't know, love..."
We answer all our children's questions, as openly and as honest as is age appropriate. Why shouldn't we? We know they are still going to go off and experiment because they won't believe our tales. I've already caught my (then) 15 year old daughter in a pub being bought a WKD by her friends mum (that's a whole other story) and have recently found out that my 16 year old son has been drunk on the local bowling green. I gave out at the first one and had mellowed by the time the second one had done it because I'd learnt that screaming and shouting after the event does not turn back the clocks.
There is also the issue that the two youngsters are both very different, in temperament and in attitude to life in general. When my daughter was the age that son #1 is now (an angry 16 years and 8 months) she had a one-track vision that she was right and there was no alternative, she had left home, dossed on a mate's settee for a few weeks, procured a flat at The Foyer, only returning for a temporary period a further 11 months later. Son #1 is quite happy sat in his bedroom surrounded by his television, computer, X-Box, having all his meals provided, the bills paid and a fairly laid back attitude.
We need to talk to our teenagers and we need to help them through the period of self-doubt and raging hormones but we also need to find the correct distance to stay away that lets them make their mistakes, learn from them but for them to have the knowledge that we are there to guide them. We need to talk to them as we would expect to be spoken to - with respect. They are the next generation (I was going to put "children are the future" but didn't want to get all 'Whitney' on you) and I'd like to be able to say that I'm proud of the generation that I'm nurturing. What about you?
Picture credit: Google Images