I’m a dad with daughters. Four of them. Needless to…
A couple of years ago, our son told us that he wanted to go into the military as soon as he finished high school.
We all have times during our parenting when we hold our breath: first steps, first day of school, first time driving, etc. This was definitely one of those moments for me. I was filled with an entire range of emotions leading up to the day when he left. Pride, sadness, fear and excitement filled my days since I knew he was making the right choice for his life. I wasn’t quite ready to let him go, but I also knew that no matter what, I was going to have to find a way to accept and support his decision.
He has been making the right choices for years, and I knew this time was no exception.
How to Help Your Teen Make the Right Choices
From the time he was a little boy, we gave him the opportunity to make age-appropriate choices for his own life and take responsibility for them, good or bad. It’s easier to sit by and watch while your child learns to deal with the consequences of his or her choices at a young age. I can promise you that it is a lot easier when they are choosing how to dress themselves at five years old instead of how they will deal with peer pressure at 15 years old.
As he has gotten older, we have always tried to talk to him about situations that are likely to arise long before they actually do. Underage drinking, for example, was one topic that we began talking about as soon as we saw the opportunity. The holidays were usually a good time to point out that he couldn’t drink certain holiday drinks until he turned 21 years old. We might also use a situation where an older aunt or uncle had obviously been drinking a little too much to point out the fact that even adults can make bad choices with alcohol.
We would often do a role-playing game with our kids. One of us adults would be the friend who was pressuring them to drink and then our kid would have to decide for themselves how to deal with their friend while maintaining their own boundaries. This was a great way to practice dealing with a situation before it came up.
I think the most important thing is to make it clear that there are dangers to drinking, especially underage drinking.
Our goal has always been to raise a productive citizen of society who could function on his own in the world and follow the law of the land. The first step in empowering him to take charge of his own life was making sure that he understood that rules were in place to help keep him safe and not just to keep him from having fun. Now that he is living away from home, I trust that he will continue to set clear boundaries and make positive choices that will help him follow the path to his dream.