parents

'Help – my teenager has just started going to parties. And I’m terrified.'

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My problem (or maybe it’s a blessing, I’m not sure?) with having had a child when I was in my early ‘20s is that now that she’s become a teen, I am still young enough to remember EXACTLY what I was getting up to at 15 years old.

And, not only what I was getting up to, but what I was getting away with behind my mother’s back. Now, I like to think I’m cooler and more approachable than my mother was at the same time, but when it all boils down to it, peer pressure is the same in any decade and with the rise of social media, perhaps now it’s even worse.

We’ve had discussions about drinking because, as I mentioned above, I’m approachable and cool. Although the fact I say that probably means that I’m neither. I digress. I have attempted casual conversations with her, usually on our way into school and work. The whole, ‘look, you’re going to drink and have sex, it’s just the way it is’. At which point her mortified face drops and she asks me why on earth I am doing this to her.

‘I am cool and approachable, right?’

As far as sex goes, I have had more serious conversations in which I have tried to make two things abundantly clear: 1) Always be sure that SHE wants to do it and 2) Always use protection.

This conversation wasn’t particularly well received and, sure, she acted like I’d just handed her her first training bra but I think we got through. The message I want her to take is that I know she’ll do it, I just want her to have a good, safe experience when she does.

Then comes drinking and this is actually a harder one to tackle. When we started discussing this, I told her about my first time drinking. How I’d gotten so rotten drunk, purely just to experiment, that it was not only pointless, it was really dangerous.

talking to teenagers
“The whole, ‘look, you’re going to drink and have sex, it’s just the way it is’. To which I have watched her mortified face drop and ask me why on earth I was doing this to her.” Image: Supplied
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When I started the conversation with my daughter, who is starting to attend parties where the parents are conspicuously absent and there is booze readily available, she tells me that she’s not interested in drinking. I counter this with, well, I almost think it would be better for you and your friends to have a bottle of something at home, before you go, rather than there and with God knows what. She is adamant that she’s not interested in it. But here’s the thing I know that she doesn’t. Yet.

Alcohol is a great social lubricator. And what she doesn’t understand (and what she will with her first experience) is that when she tries it, although she more than likely won’t like the taste (especially if she’s drinking classy cask wine like I did), she may well like the side effect that it has on her.

The side-effect that allows her to talk freely to a boy she’s had a crush on for months but has never quite worked up the courage to approach. Or the feeling it gives her when she hears her favourite song. How liberating it is to be so uninhibited. And once she discovers that, well, all bets are off.

So if I’m quite honest, it’s not the sneaky Bacardi Breezer down at the park with her mates that I’m worried about, it’s the lengths she may go to, to be accepted or to keep up.

And that when it comes to the moment, she may not remember any of my advice.

I’m actually quite terrified about what comes next and I feel completely out of my depth. And I’d really like your help or advice.

How do you talk to your kids about alcohol, sex and parties?

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