by Mary Cornforth Cawood

Mary ProfileSpring has officially sprung in the valley – spring break is over and the mad dash to the end of the school year has begun. Proms and graduation parties will soon fill the weekends; teenagers will be celebrating their official rites of passage.  Too often these celebrations include alcohol. If we are very lucky, no lives will be lost.

In a 2013 survey, 72% of Mesa County high school students reported binge drinking at least once in the past 30 days.  What?! That’s nearly three out of four?!

That just can’t be.  Yet, sadly, it is.

No words.

I find that statistic utterly terrifying.  You see, I have a thirteen-year-old daughter.  Next year she will be a high-schooler.   My sweet, innocent girl will enter a realm where three out of four kids are drinking?! I can’t begin to wrap my brain around this.  But I need to.  It’s time.

As the parent of a thirteen-year-old, this is something I don’t feel ready or able to talk with my daughter about. Drugs and alcohol aren’t even on her radar.   But…. next year she will be a freshman in high school and that’s a game changer.  New kids, new experiences, new opportunities. 

How will she handle peer pressure?

Is she ready?

Am I ready?  – I can answer that with a resounding  NO!

So yes, it’s time. We need to talk. But, how? What do I say? Will she listen?

Is there a manual for this?!

Not exactly, but there are a lot of resources out there, and I found those from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids were a good place to start.

Again, will she listen?  As it turns out, it is more about me listening. If I really want to know what is going on with my daughter, I need to listen.

I can do that.

Listen without interrupting.  Ouch – that is much harder!  But, I need to. Open lines of communication are built by back and forth communication, not lecturing.

Listen between the words. Sometimes it is more about how things are said versus what is said. I’ m quickly learning that body language,  facial expressions, and the space between words are key to decoding teen thoughts.

Listen to them vent.  I am definitely getting better at that.  I have found the car to be a great place for my daughter to open up, and it is usually venting. I am catching on to the fact that she doesn’t necessarily want me to solve her problems she just needs to get them out. As the person who has always picked her up and dusted her off when she falls, this is really hard.  I’m learning to take comfort in the fact that she feels comfortable venting to me.

Let them know when you aren’t able to be a good listener. Wise words.  There are days when after work, evening practices and dinner that I am utterly spent. Physically and mentally exhausted. I know I’m not a good listener at that point, and I’ve learned to say so. As long as it isn’t an urgent matter, I ask if we can talk about it later. 

By listening, I will learn about her friends, things she heard at school, what scares her, and what makes her happy.

It is my hope that all this listening pays off. That my daughter will continue to talk to me, to trust me, and in turn, listen to my advice.

It’s a scary world out there.  I hope I’m ready for it.

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