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I’m not trying to be popular, I’m trying to be a parent

Teens Drinking

Image is for illustrative purposes.

Sarah*, 42, has two children. Megan* is 16 and Matthew* is 14. They have both gone to parties where alcohol and drugs are present.

My mum often tells me that she’s so glad she doesn’t have to be a parent to teenagers now. She says it’s so much more complicated these days because of Facebook, texting, drugs and drink. There are so many more opportunities for kids to go down the wrong path and I think mum’s right.

Being a parent to teenagers is stressful and it can be so hard to keep up to date with who their friends are, where they’re going after school or at the weekend, who they’re spending time with, whose party they are going to and who else will be at that party.

I have to be really firm to get any kind of clue as to what is happening in my kids’ lives. They don’t like all the questions but I’m not trying to be popular, I’m trying to be a parent. I’ve been called ‘tight’, ‘boring’ and told to ‘get a life’ by my kids when I want to know the details of a party or a sleepover, but I don’t care. They give me the information I want eventually.

I know that alcohol and marijuana are at some of the parties that my daughter goes to. She’s told me that. Does she drink? I don’t know. She knows I don’t want her to drink. I worry that she’ll hurt herself, make stupid choices, or that she’ll put herself at risk of being sexually assaulted. Without sounding like I’m nagging – I hope – I take opportunities when I can in normal conversation to keep reminding her about the risks.

Now and again when we’ve been out to dinner or at family events Megan’s asked if she can have a glass of wine and I say ‘no’ because I don’t want to send her mixed messages. She’s too young to drink. Full stop.

I’ve also talked to my kids about marijuana when they’ve mentioned someone was smoking it at a party. I’ve tried to explain that it’s not as harmless as people think, that it can affect your memory and learning, particularly if you start using it when you’re a teenager. I keep saying it in the hope that it sinks in and that they remember it when someone offers them drugs.

Matthew is more adventurous than Megan. He’s the one who likes to push the boundaries and he’s one of those kids the other boys in class look up to. I worry that because he may feel he has an image as a bit of a ‘lad’ that he’ll up the ante, and so he’ll have a drink or will try whatever new drug is on offer. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. So I remind Matthew to use the fact that the other kids in his class look up to him in a positive way. He rolls his eyes but listens.

When your kids are telling you that you don’t know what you’re talking about and to ‘get a life’ it’s easy to think you’ve lost them. But as parents we do still have influence over our children and we have to fight for them, hang in there and let them know we love them and that we have their back.

Sarah* was interviewed by Sarah Marinos

* Names have been changed to protect the person’s identity.