Jewish Journal


September 23, 2010

10 scary things teens won’t talk about with their parents


Vanessa Van Petten

Vanessa Van Petten

“You can come talk to me about anything.”

I heard this statement many times growing up. I would nod my head, murmur assent and then think of all the things I really couldn’t talk to my parents about because, at least in my mind, they were clueless. Today, I’m well aware that parents need to have a slew of awkward conversations on topics that teenagers inevitably will try to avoid — but which desperately need to be discussed. Parents these days know they have to have the sex talk, drug talk and cyber safety talk, but they should also approach their teens about these other important issues as well.

1. Teens love thinking of alternative ways to get drunk.

Pouring shots of vodka into lower eyelids and injecting gin are just two of the ways teens experiment with fast and alternative inebriation techniques to avoid alcohol breath and queasy stomachs. We often talk to our kids about not drinking, but we forget to talk to them about dangerous consumption of all kinds.

2. Teens think “I love you”means “Do as I say.”

When you say “I love you,” what do you really mean? Many teens think this phrase, which can be overused by praise-junkie or insecure parents, is actually a cover-up for “Do what I want.” As adults, it’s easy to fall into the trap of expressing love right after a punishment — to reassure our kids we are disciplining because we care. Unfortunately, this teaches them to fear love along with our reprimands.

3. Teens value quantities of friends over quality friends.

Teens are more proud of the number of friends they have on Facebook than the quality of their closest companions. Teaching teens to value quality over quantity is essential for building a system of support as they grow up — even in the digital age.

4. Teens value fame over happiness.

Compared to teens in the 1960s, today’s youth rank “fame” as the No. 1 desire for their future. Yet parents of those same fame-hungry teens falsely believe their children value happiness. The confusion stems from the belief many teens have that fame brings happiness — this is an often incorrect, even dangerous notion.

5. Texting makes smothering cool.

Constant check-ins via text and Facebook have made obsessive relationships the norm. Parents may talk with their kids about “sexting” but often forget that cell phones are now acting as virtual leashes in relationships — restricting and smothering a teen’s independence and growth.

6. Disordered eating is trendy eating.

The rise of “pro-anorexia” social networks — Web sites where users encourage each other to binge, purge and starve, has transformed disordered eating into cool eating. Parents have learned to discuss eating disorders with teens but often neglect what has become an increasingly accepted precursor: disordered eating.

7. Password sharing is a friendship test.

Kids learn at an early age not to post personal information online or talk to strangers. But we forget to tell them not to share their passwords with friends. Password sharing among teens has become a new test of relationship depth. Password sharing has become the No. 1 cause of another scary trend — cyber-bullying. Make sure your kids don’t share their passwords.

8. Pot is a social unifier.

“I only get to hang out with the jocks when we are sharing a bong,” one 10th-grade drama kid told me. Marijuana, addressed by parents as dangerous and illegal, needs to also be discussed as social glue. Will your kids still say no even though pot smoking erases social cliques and makes them feel a part of the “in” crowd?

9. Oral sex is something“owed.”

Parents talk to their daughters about the dangers and seriousness of oral sex, yet they need to add a very important issue: oral sex is not owed. Many teen girls say that they feel they can say no to sex, but then have to “at least” give their partner something. That something is usually oral sex.

10. Teens think they are justified in cheating.

The increased pressure on teens today is an old issue. One of the side effects of this development is that students feel the difficulty of school gives them license to cheat. In addition, teens feel the only way they can get by is to “cheat like everyone else.” We talk to our kids about stress, but do we talk to them about how stress changes the way we act?

Although these issues are scary, I beg you not to simply run down this list with your teen. These problems are real and often under the surface. If you wait for teachable moments and bring them up authentically, it will encourage your teen to really talk to you about anything, and you might not be so clueless after all.

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