When discussing what is helpful to our teens, it is important to remember the role of parenting. Parents begin teaching their children from the day they are born. As an infant, a child is shown love, attention, affection, and other basic emotions. During the ensuing years, a child learns right from wrong, boundaries and consequences. When your child is hurt, angry, or upset, it is the parent’s responsibility to nurture and respond appropriately with their actions and behaviors. As a child is loved and comforted through various instances, they should learn to value themselves. All of this should form the root of a child’s basic coping skills so that they can slowly start leaning on their own abilities.
If your child falls and gets a scrape, their first instinct is to look at his or her parents, and see how they react. Your child may cry and scream, waiting for the comfort of their loved ones. When your child has a bad day during grade school, the parents are the first people they tell and seek advice and reassurance from. Fast forward a handful of years until your child is in high school, and they will want more independence. By this point, you let the string go a little further and hope everything you have taught them has sunk in. What are these values? What are important skills and values that you have taught them? What values is your lifestyle teaching your children?
Because a teen’s front lobe is not fully developed, it is not the teen’s first instinct to use the skills or values they have been taught. The brain’s limbic system is what causes the brain to seek an automatic reward. As a parent, this is when you hope you have done your job well, and your teen chooses a healthy outlet. However, there is a chance that your teen will choose alcohol or substance use. The substance of choice is a quick reward, rather than using the problem-solving skills and coping skills that you know you have taught them. Using a substance brings instant gratification, solidarity amongst friends, and a sense of relief.
Parents, your biggest calling is to teach and equip your children to be able to resist the temptation of drugs and alcohol. I believe that these skills are more important than teaching a child or teen about the dangers of drugs. Not only can this save your child from potential addiction, but it could save them from other high-risk behaviors such as self-harm, un-safe sexual practices, or even suicide.
The big question is this: what skills do I need to teach my children? Through various ways of communication such as prayer or meditation, your teen can use this to stay on top of their moral inventory. Moral inventory can include your teen’s inner most thoughts, feelings, history, and behavior. Addiction to anything, whether it be a substance, pornography, or gambling can be a shame that even adults are afraid to express. As the shame and sorrow continues to be buried and concealed, the more painful it becomes. These things can be revealed and let go of. As things are consistently let go of, hope feels possible. Many, including this author, value the importance of a relationship with a higher power, to teach what constant forgiveness, grace, and love feels like in the midst of chaos and turmoil. As a teen learns what can carry them through the good and the bad, the more they will be able to rely on themselves.
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