By Kathleen Ganster
Every parent of teens has to pause for at least a moment when their children go to the prom and/or graduation night with its ensuing parties.
In light of the recent Steubenville rapes, it will cause even more concern this year when our young men and women head out the door in their finery and graduations gowns.
For suggestions and tips on keeping your teen children safe, I talked with Deborah Gilboa, MD and known as “Doctor G.” A family physician, international speaker, author and mother of four, Doctor G is also the host of WQED TV “iQ: martparent!” .
“Talk to your child. Ask him or her what their concerns are,” she said, “Use your children to educate you, then take your cues from them.”
By utilizing the question-format, Gilboa said it helps to eliminate the “lecture tone,” parents voices often take. “We all know kids tune us out as soon as we start lecturing,” she said.
And knowing their concerns allows you to address them. Find out what their plans are, who they will be with and where they will be. Ask what kind of supervision they will have at parties.
“If you don’t know the parents or are concerned, tell your kids you are going to call the parents,” she said.
Dr. Gilboa said have those conversations early. Proms are usually late April and early May, graduations in early June. Start those discussions now.
“If you aren’t used to having these types of conversations, it may take awhile. And you may want to start by bringing these topics up while you are driving in a car so you don’t have to look at each other,” she suggested.
Dr. Gilboa also suggested drawing up a contract with your child so he or she knows what kind of behavior you expect. And make sure your child knows the consequences if that contract isn’t honored.
“If you can’t reach them or they get drunk, what will happen? And let them know that if you can trust them, they will get more freedom,” she said.
Prom and graduation nights are times that you should be able to reach your child at all times, said Dr. Gilboa.
“Tell them that they have to answer your texts. Tell them, ‘If you don’t answer my texts, I’ll come find you.’” She said. Dead batteries are not an excuse, she said.
But that doesn’t mean you as a parent should be overbearing or smothering. That is where those early conversations are key.
“Ask your child what her expectations are from you. Reach an understanding,” she said.
Also let your child know that he or she can call you if they feel unsafe or nervous about a situation.
“Tell them that you will pick them up no matter what and you will not punish them or be angry,” she said.
That helps your child feel safe if they get into an uncomfortable or sticky situation.
“Let them know that if they make a mistake and get drunk, you will still come get them,” she said.
Parents should also know what they are comfortable with – will you let your children attend an all-night coed party or sleep-over? Will you let them drink alcohol?
Dr. Gilboa said that she does not, under any circumstances, endorse underage drinking, but some parents do and you need to know if your child is going to a party, if there will be alcohol served, then make your own decisions on whether or not your child can attend.
Please note: if you serve anyone under the age of 21 alcohol – you are responsible and can be held liable for any consequences.
Dr. Gilboa sponsors one minute videos on making your life easier while building kids’ character and has downloadable guides(chores at every age, boundaries for tech use and more). Find her on Facebook or Twitter!