Sunday, May 06, 2007

Teen Drinking, Sex, Curfews, and Partying. What Would YOU Do?

Before I had teens I thought that the answers to any "what would you do?" questions regarding drinking, sex, partying, etc. would be fairly straight-forward, pretty black and white, and that I'd know with total confidence how to handle just about any situation. After all, we were strong parents with solid morals and convictions and we were raising GOOD kids.

I never knew how hard the reality of it all would really be.

I'll start this off with a few questions and follow it up (in another post) with a few answers. Even if you're not a parent of teens, feel free to join in. Your kids will be teens before you know it, so it's best to be prepared! (By the way, almost all of these have happened to us; only two are hypothetical situations.)

1.) Your boy/girl twin 17 1/2 year olds ask if they can have a few friends over for hot-tubbing, movie watching and a marshmallow roast at your fire pit. "And drinking?" you ask. "Any plans for drinking?" They know that you know that teens (even those who probably aced their SATs that morning) drink. They know that you don't like it. "Likely," they answer. But it's not a drinking party. It's a get together with maybe some drinking." We can either get together here or at someone else's house. You, the parents, are home. How do you answer your kids' question?

2.) Your 19-year-old son has been going out with someone for over a year. You adore her. He loves her. You know they're having sex, but you haven't had any in-depth conversations with him/them about it. One morning, when you're up early, you see them at the door. She's quietly leaving. Do you say something? What do you say? To whom?

3.) Your 22-year-old invites her younger siblings, all over 17 but under 21, to a "formal cocktail party" at her house. How do you handle the situation?

4.) Your 17-year-old daughter is a peer health educator with Planned Parenthood. (Teens go to local schools' health classes and educate their peers about many teen health issues, including but in no way limited to, sexuality issues.) In her once-a-week meetings at PP, she has access to condoms and can take as many as she wants. Her Mormon girlfriend, who has been having sex for over a year already, asks her for condoms, which she willingly provides. YOU get a call from the girl's irate mother, an acquaintance of yours, who found a condom in her daughter's car and demanded to know where it came from. How do you handle the call?

5.) Your 16-year-old daughter confides to you that she and her boyfriend of almost a year have decided to have sex. She asks you not to tell her father. How do you respond?

6.) Your 16-year-old's curfew is midnight. She has never missed it. She calls at 10:00 PM, asking if she can spend the night at her girlfriend's house. How do you respond? What if she calls from a guy's house and says that "a bunch of people are spending the night... his parents are home." How do you respond in that case? What if parents aren't home? (How do you know?)

7.) You and your husband are having mojitos (cosmos, a beer, a glass of wine... whatever). Your 17 and 20-year-olds ask if you'll make them one. How do you respond? How do you respond if they're with friends?

8.) Your 15-year-old asks both parents if they ever smoked weed. You both have. How do you respond? (Assuming you answer honestly:) He asks if you liked it. One did, one didn't. How do you respond? He asks if you currently smoke. Neither parents does, but one parent misses it and one doesn't. How do you respond? He then asks which you think is worse for teens -- weed or alcohol. How do you respond?

9.) Your 15-year-old confides that her 14-year-old cousin, whose parents forbid her to drink, has been drunk numerous times. Do you call the cousin's parent -- your sibling -- and tell them?

10.) Your 16-year-old confides that her 15-year-old cousin, has been having sex. Your child isn't sure if the sex was protected or not. Do you call the cousin's parent -- your sibling -- and tell them?

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Maria said...

Wow! Those are tough questions, and they cover some of my biggest doubts/wonders as to how I will parent my son. Fortunately at 4 months, he has a while to go before sex and drinking, but still!

vailian said...

Let me tell you a true story. My oldest son -- let's call him L.-- was getting close to his 16th birthday. We had agreed that he could have a party and invite some 20 of his closest friends (L. has a LOT of friends.) I was taking him to his piano lesson and took the opportunity to work out the ground rules for the party.
"First, at midnight everything goes REALLY QUIET. I don't mind if people stay longer, but we and the neighbors want to sleep".
"Second, I will let you have a beer keg, but I don't want any hard liquor and I don't want any drunks."
"Third: No smoking of any sort in the apartment, only on the balconies"
"Fourth: If people stay overnight, their parents must have been informed and given their permission."
"Fifth: The Apartment will be returned to its pristine state by noon the next day."
this list went on a bit longer. L. listened patiently, and gave me to understand that he would abide by these strictures.
Then there was a pause, and he asked, "OK, but we can have sex, can't we??"

Carol said...

From Renate, who for some reason can't leave comments on my blog... wish I knew why! And wish she could, because she so often has great comments! renate, I can post your comments always if you'd like...


For some reason or other, once again I can't post comments on your site. So this is my input via email.

I have had to wrestle with answers to almost all of your questions over the years and it was tough. As far as smoking weed goes, we were always honest with the kids that we did. As in your case, one of us liked it, the other didn't much (me), so when the boys were 13 and 16 and I got divorced, the weed question went away.

As to question 1--be careful when you allow drinking at your house. If something should go wrong for whatever reason, you leave yourself wide open to criminal charges. Having grown up in Germany, my attitude toward drinking was different from most American's attitude. Letting the kids have a sip of beer or wine was never a big deal; however, I would not have allowed other kids to drink at my house. I'm sure I would have been run out of the neighborhood if I did and the other parents would have found out.

I also made sure my boys understood that, while I realized they were having sex, it was not acceptable under my roof. I, as their mother, respected them enough not to bring any men into my bed after my divorce, and I expected the same respect from them.

I'm afraid that if I go into your other questions, this would get too lengthy, so I'll keep this brief.

It will be interesting to read comments from other parents.


Anonymous said...

Lookin' forward to all advice regarding these situations. My kid is 10 and really is sooo far from even being aware of all this stuff now and yet he's only a few years from this being his reality........ Freaks me out a bit! Thanks for the education...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

[sorry, I removed my previous comment because it contained too many typos.]

Wow, I just revisited (*) your blog, only to find myself confronted with quite tough questions, in particular the drinking and weed parts of them. Well, at least here in Germany, drinking is legally allowed at the age of 16 (light alcoholic beverages, i.e. beer, wine, and the like, though, hard 'stuff' at the age of 18 (what I wouldn't appreciate, in fact)).

to 1): If my 17-old child would asked me for a party where drinking is "likely" (albeit not officially declared as a "drinking party"), I would appreciate if it would take place at my home, for I could have 'control' of the drinking (only beer and the like, of course!). That applies, however, to a situation where it is (legally) allowed (what isn't in your case, is it?) and, more importantly, if and only if the friends' parent gave their agreements. If not, I wouldn't.

to 2): 19-year-olds should already know "it", shouldn't they? If (presumably) not, I would ask the father to do that "in-depth conversation" with his son (sons generally don't appreciate to talk about "it" with their mothers, I dare say).

to 3): If my 22-year-old promises that she watches and cares for her younger siblings, I would agree. This is, in my opinion, a question of trusting her (and the younger ones). But I would 'encourage' my 22-year-old not to give her younger siblings anything that isn't legal...

to 4): First, I would rather try to convince the mother in question that it was important that someone - regardless who it had been - supplied her daughter with condoms and that the fact, that her daughter used them should be the most important thing (and it is, if you ask me, isn't it?). Since the truth will eventually come out sometime, I would tell her that it was my daughter and that I have raised a girl who cares for her friends' well-beings (including preventing involuntary pregnancies and/or - even worse - diseases). Again, isn't that the most striking point? I would probably tell her that I'm proud of my daughter's responsibility (and you can, in fact!). At last, I would tell her that the alternatives would've been either that her daughter would've had unprotected sex (with all the possible consequences) or that she [her daughter] would've probably got them from someone else. I'm not saying that it would be easy, though...

to 5): I would agree, couldn't that be just a mother-daughter thing? And, isn't it worth enough that she told YOU?

to 6): In either case, couldn't that be clarified, if you ask her friend's parents for agreement? Or would that breach your daughter's confidence about your trust in her?

to 7): I would agree if they aren't with friends (only one for the 17-year-old, if it comes down to cocktails), otherwise I wouldn't. However, I would make clear that this won't be a usual thing, in particular for the 17-year-old.

to 8): I would tell the truth as far as the "past" is concerned. If I were asked which of it, alcohol or weed, is worse, I admit, that I wouldn't have an answer. I might say (or pretend) that weed is worse (I don't know why, in fact). I would probably tell him/her that both is bad enough, in particular for 15-year-olds.

to 9): Yes (after telling my daughter that I will)! We're talking about a 14-year-old!

to 10): I would ask my child to ask her cousin whether or not it had been protected. If it hadn't been, I would (first) talk my niece/nephew, then to my sibling...

(*) I read, however, most parts of your quite entertaining postings about your employment at MS.

Anonymous said...

1. How do you answer your kids' question? No. I won't knowingly allow minors to drink at my home.
2.Do you say something? What do you say? To whom? I would tell my son if he wants to have sleepovers with his girlfriend he can rent an apartment.
3. How do you handle the situation? If I knew it was a "cocktail" party, I wouldn't send minors to it. Besides, honestly- do young professionals really want some drunk high school kids at their party?
4. I would be honest. I'd say my child does sometimes give condoms to friends WHO ASK FOR THEM, but I don't know where that particular one came from. But I'd also add "Since your daughter chooses to have sex, thank goodness she's bringing condoms."
5. She asks you not to tell her father. How do you respond? I tell her that my primary relationship is with my husband, and it seems she's trying to undermine that. And if there's something she wants kept secret from her father, she probably shouldn't tell it to me.
6. She calls at 10:00 PM, asking if she can spend the night at her girlfriend's house. How do you respond? I'd ask if a parent was there and probably ask to speak to them "Just to verify that it's alright with them that you spend the night there." If the child isn't lying about parent presence, she wouldn't mind.
7. How do you respond? How do you respond if they're with friends? I respond that they're minors and as such no, we're not drinking buddies.
8. Your 15-year-old asks both parents if they ever smoked weed. You both have. How do you respond? I'd say yes I did, but stress how different marijuana is now from when I was using it. I put it on a pretty even par with alcohol.
9. My guideline for this is "If it was my kid, would I want someone to tell me?" In this case and more so in #10, the answer is yes. So yes, I would tell my sibling. I would hope she'd rather hear it from me than anyone else.

Goofball said...

Hmmm very tough questions... I don't have children yet, so it's hard to know what I'd do in that situation.

As is stated already here, attitude towards drinking is more relax in Europe. So the cocktail party or some drinking under my roof doesn't seem a problem at all to me. I'd find it a plus that I could supervise a bit and see that it remains "just a drink " and see how the kids respond to it. But I realise that in the USA it is it might not be a good idea to have other people's children have alcohol under your roof.

In general I think all the questions come forward from an open and honest relationship between parent-and-child. At least they tell that they want to have some drinks or they ask about smoking or they ask for sleeping over. If you have a open relationship with your children it is probably easier to explain to them the pro's and con's...that you understand their questions but that you have worries as well and it'll make it easier to come to an agreement.

It's worse when you can't even talk about those things. If in a parent-child relationship you can't talk openly about these topics, I suspect a lot will happen secretly which is more worrying!

blackcrag said...

1. I'll have to get back to this one.

2. I take it you didn't hear them the night before? I've lived with roommates where I've heard their nocturnal activities. It is not pleasant.

If they see you, say good morning. If they don't, leave it be, and apprecite their discretion. Unless you have a 'no sex' rule in your house. Then you have a word with your son, underlining the rule.

3. This is between your children. I know you trust them all; let them make their memories.

4. Maybe ask the mother if she would prefer being a grandmother already?

I am unfamilair with the Mormon strictures, but assuming they go along with the 'no sex without marriage' theory, then this sounds like an issue between the mother and daughter.

Your daughter did exactly what she was supposed to, so tell her that.

6. This response depends entirely on the father's likely reaction. If blood would be in the offing, do not tell the father.

7. My first drinking experiences came through my father. When I was a preteen, he'd make me an occassional shandy (half beer and half lemonade). As a teen, he and I would have a beer each after summer yard work. This gave me context for alcohol, showed me responisbile drinking. In your instance, (drinking with a meal, relaxing in the evening?), I would mix them one. One.

8. Truth. It works in your favour, as you have differing opinions. Underline it is illegal, and caution (not forbid) against it.

9. How severe is the drinking? If your child is worrying the cousin is a teen alcoholic, then yes. If the teen drinks heavily, ask your child to caution/temper the cousin,s habits, if she has the opportunity. If the cousin is just disobeying her parents, that''s between them.

10. Promote safe sex through the child grapevine.

Back to 1:

This one is hard, becaue drinking will happen, in your place or the other place. It is encouraging to hear it is not a drinking party (which means your children, at least, have learnt some social context to drinking). Ultimeately, I'd say no. The kids are, after all, underaged, so you shouldn't condone it for the group.

blackcrag said...

oops; 6 is actually 5. I missed. So;

6. Ask to talk to the parents in both cases, confirming it is all right with them, and that they are actually there. Also talk to the parents to see how many are a bunch, and what if any supervision will happen.

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