MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 15th, 2013, 0 Comments

Haley and the Champagne Flute

Season 4, Episode 20

The Framework

Tonight on “Modern Family” a couple former storylines get picked up right where they left off. The house that Claire and Cam have been renovating gets put on the market and sold. While over at the Pritchett house Gloria gets mad when Manny’s father visits again, bringing Trish – another one of his girlfriends – with him. And Gloria gets even madder when it turns out that this one is not a bimbo but an art expert with a fancy degree and a job to match.

These storylines were full of laughs like these:

Haley: He went to college at a place called “mit.”
Alex: It’s MIT.
Haley: I know how to spell it.

Gloria: This is not even garbage. They wouldn’t take it. It’s too big for the can.

Trish (to Gloria): You know what I had for lunch?! I had half a granola bar. And I can’t even button my pants.

But as the families celebrate the completed renovation, there were a couple sobering lines as well:

Phil: I would like to propose a toast.
Haley (emptying her glass of bubbly and holding it out for more): Missed me. And before the second toast: Still empty.
Alex: You know you’re my ride.
Haley (pinging the champagne flute with her finger): They say it’s bad luck to toast with an empty glass.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes

Does Haley have a drinking problem? She did chug down that glass of champagne. And there was that night of bizarre behavior that got her kicked out of college – a night that began with drinking. But how would we know if she had a problem? Come to think of it, how would we know if one of our kids had a problem with alcohol?

Here are some warning signs:
• Mood changes – flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness
• School problems – poor attendance, low grades, or recent disciplinary action
• Rebelling against family rules
• Switching friends along with reluctance to have you get to know their friends
• A “nothing matters” attitude, sloppy appearance, a lack of involvement in former interests, and general low energy
• Finding alcohol in your child’s bedroom or backpack, or smelling alcohol on their breath
• Physical or mental problems – bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, slurred speech, memory lapses, poor concentration
(Source: NIAAA)

Some of the things on this list may be no more than normal teen growing pains. But if your teen shows several of the signs at the same time, if they occur suddenly, and if they are more extreme, it’s probably time to get some help. A good place to start is to call your teen’s doctor – just as we would if our teens had any other serious medical need.

None of us want our teens to use alcohol – much less to develop a drinking problem. But no teen is immune. So we need to keep our radar up and quietly monitor for signs of use. Because no one will ever be more concerned than we are. And no one can be more watchful than we can be.

If your teen casually mentions that some of their friends are drinking or that some of their friends’ parents let their kids drink, it’s a signal that they may be doing some experimenting or at least considering it. Putting up these trial balloons lets teens test our response. And as the balloons float by, we get a natural chance to reinforce our rule that no use is acceptable and to remind them of the consequences for missing the mark.

If you suspect experimentation but only have your suspicions, voice your concerns as objectively (and unemotionally) as possible. Tell your teen what it is that you’ve noticed that has you worried. And tell them that you love them too much not to worry and care too much not to fight them over drinking or drug use. By saying this we let our teens know that we’re paying attention, and it lets us gradually build a case if their worrisome behavior continues. So say this, and then quietly monitor their behavior.

And if you find evidence of one occasion of use, try not to view it as the end of the world. Yes, it’s disappointing. And to send a message that you won’t tolerate drinking, you’ll have to take away some of their privileges (things like driving, sleepovers, and extended curfews) until they’ve re-earned your trust. But there is also reason to be grateful. Because when our teens make a mistake and we find out about it, we get one of our best opportunities to help them make better decisions down the road.

The BottomLine

Jay (to Trish): Now, I’m not an art expert like you, but I did acquire this piece in a gallery in one of those finer Vegas casinos. What do you think?
Trish: It does say something. … What is it Thoreau said: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Some parents will take a look at the teen scene and decide that teens will drink and that there is little they can do about it. And to be honest, the research indicates that parenting doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of effect on whether kids decide to try alcohol. But if you take a closer look at the data, you’ll see that parenting attitudes and actions can make a big difference in how much and how often teens drink – and this is where the greatest risks to their safety and their brains lie.

Researchers have found that the kids least likely to do heavy drinking have parents who are highly supportive and highly demanding. These parents are warm and caring. They know where their kids are and who they are with. They send a clear message that no drinking is acceptable. And they hold their kids accountable. On the other hand, having a permissive parent who is warm and caring but low on accountability (I’m talking to you, Phil) can triple the risk of a teen taking part in heavy drinking. And a controlling parent who is high on accountability but low on warmth (Claire, I’m talking to you now) can more than double their teen’s risk of heavy drinking.

So it’s true that as our teens get older, we have less influence and their peers have more. But it’s also true that our actions and attitudes can go a long way in minimizing the effect of peer encouragement to drink.

Flipping the Frame: From My Life as a Parent

A decade ago when my son was a teen, many parents viewed teen drinking as a rite of passage. Some parents today still may feel relieved that their teen is “only” drinking. But in truth, what we’ve learned over the last several years underscores the dangers of underage drinking:

• It’s a major cause of death from injuries among teens.
• It plays a role in risky sexual behavior and violent crime.
• And there is growing evidence that the teen brain, which is still forming, is more vulnerable than the adult brain to the damaging effects of alcohol.

Some adolescent experts used to advise letting teens do their experimenting before they left home for college so that parents could keep watch and monitor their use. Nobody is suggesting this any more. We now know that the best thing we parents can do is to delay the age at which our kids start drinking for as long as possible. Because the earlier teens start drinking, the more likely they are to become a heavy drinker and to have problems with school, jobs, and relationships.

Flipping the Frame: Your Parenting Experiences

• I’m pretty sure that Haley is not yet 21. Why do you think she got champagne for toasting while Alex and Luke got juice? She’s almost 21. And it’s just one glass. So does it matter?

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How to Help Your Teen Kick the Texting While Driving Habit

Posted on October 29th, 2012, 0 Comments

The last post relayed the staggering facts about the dangers of texting while driving. Among the facts was this one: Every day, texting while driving causes 11 teen deaths. That’s eleven families, schools, and neighborhoods grieving the forever loss of children, siblings, friends, and teammates.

Texting is, in reality, an ingrained habit for a lot of teens. Studies show that the typical teen sends about 100 texts a day and that 1 in 3 teens admits to sending and receiving messages while driving.

Although authorities are increasingly cracking down on texting while driving, many teens remain unconvinced. Recent focus groups done by researchers at the Pew Research Center revealed that lots of teens think that it’s okay to text if they’re at a stoplight or stuck in traffic. Others acknowledge that it’s not really safe to text and drive but insist that it’s safer to hold the phone up so they can see the road and the text as the same time.

The bottom line is that we parents cannot count on laws to keep our teens safe behind the wheel. Parental involvement is crucial. In fact, recent teen surveys show that teens who refrain from texting while driving are much more likely to report having frequent interactions with their parents about safe driving.

Below are some suggestions for getting your teen’s attention:

Debunk the myth about multitasking. Share the facts about the dangers of texting while driving and the truth about multitasking (found here).

Tell your teen why you’re worried. Discuss the possible irreversible outcomes that you fear most. Watch the video about Alex Brown with them (found here). And then together watch the video about Aaron Deveau, the Massachusetts teen who was convicted of homicide this summer and is now serving a year in prison as a result of texting while driving (found here).

Develop rules for the road. Remember, the more vague your messages are, the easier they are to ignore. So explicitly tell your teen that they are not to text and drive. Make sure they know that the restriction applies even when they’re at a stop light and that it includes reading texts too. Consider requiring that their phone be turned-off and put in the trunk or the back seat so that it’s unreachable.

Enforce the agreed upon rules. Remind your teen that driving is a privilege that they have to earn and work to keep. Tell them you’ll take the privilege away if they don’t follow the agreed upon rules. Then monitor your teen’s behavior. Regularly look at the log of their phone activity. Make a point of riding along with them occasionally so that you can watch their habits. Consider looking into the new apps designed to shutdown the keyboard when the GPS indicates the phone is moving over a preset speed. And take the keys if you find out that they’ve been texting while driving.

Be a good role model. According to a recent report, 47% of adults admit to texting while driving. Your example is the most powerful influence in your teen’s life, so don’t be one of those adults. If you’re driving with others and need to send or get a text, model the copilot system by letting a passenger do it for you.

The good news is that teens can break bad habits and learn new ones, leading to wiser and safer decisions. But they need our help to make it happen. Our teens need us parents to draw clear lines between what is safe and what is not so that they know where the boundaries are. They need to hear us say with our words and our actions that their safety is more important to us than anything else.

Our teens are counting on us!

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