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Dear Dr. JPL: My son is 14 years old. His father, who is my ex-husband, was charged with a DUI.
What are things I need to talk about with my son?
If your son is already aware of the situation, a good place to start is by listening to what he has to say. You can prompt him by gently asking what his thoughts, concerns, worries, and insights might be. It is important to validate what he is thinking and saying. You can do this by simply letting him know you hear him and empathize.
It is also important to assess the situation. If your son sees his father, you will need to determine if his safety is at risk if he gets in to a car with him. Ask your son direct questions to ensure that he is not in danger when he is with his father.
Even if this does not seem to be the case, be sure to set up a safety plan with your son, such as a code word, if you don’t have one already.
If you and his father have differences, it is important to avoid using this situation to reinforce your own negative views about his father.
You should let your son know that sometimes adults do not make the best decisions; this is clearly one of those instances.
If possible, it would also be helpful to talk to his dad and come up with a unified plan on how to approach the topic. Encourage his dad to talk with your son and accept responsibility for his mistake.
ASK DR. JPL: Have a question about your own teen and alcohol? Ask our resident tween, teen and parenting expert, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder Psy.D, to help you have The Alcohol Talk with your child. Submit your questions on the Ask Dr. JPL page of this blog. Dr. JPL may answer your question on the blog to help other parents address similar issues with their children.