Every parent is scared of the time when her baby suddenly becomes a teenager (it's why many of us will pretend not to notice it). My son is 12, and admittedly, I don't like to think he can fully understand "adult stuff"—you know, "sex, drugs, and rock and roll," as some friends and I refer to it (not literally) in college. I am excited for the time when he'll drink or play pool with me and gush about his girlfriend or a crush. But I also dread that day.
Teenagers need and value their independence and privacy (we all did at that age!). To us, it often means they stop coming to us for help, and it's probably what scares us the most. It's hard to take a step back, but we know we need to let them figure things out on their own. So, how can we be confident that our kids can handle themselves? There's no easy way about it. We have to discuss key issues with them now when they're still eager to listen. Don't let Google school them on these important issues.
1. Sex is special when it's consensual for two people. It's never forced. This act of making love is how babies are made. If you're not ready for that consequence, then practice abstinence or safe sex.
2. Respect begets respect. Boys, girls, gay, lesbian, trans, or others -- we are humans who are capable of many things. Don't let anybody tell you what you deserve or what you can't or shouldn't do based on what's in between your legs. Everybody deserves respect and the chance to achieve their goals.
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3. Peer pressure is not worth it. It's never okay to say yes or do something -- sex, drugs, pranks -- that you don't feel comfortable with, even if you're just slightly uneasy. And anyone who can't understand your choice and slams you for it is not worthy to be your friend.
4. Hard work pays off. You are talented and capable of a lot of things, but the world does not owe you anything. You still have to earn and work hard for your goals, whether that's for school or your career, for friendships and relationships, and for your growth.
5. Money does not grow on trees. Spend wisely and save some for the rainy days. Experiences have more value in the long run than the material things. Live simply but meaningfully.
6. Responsibility is picking up after yourself. Learn to cook, clean your space, do your own laundry, iron your shirt. It doesn't matter if you earn more than enough to pay someone to do it for you. What's important is you've learned these skills and can do it yourself.
7. Manners maketh a man. "Please," "Thank you," and "Excuse me," are powerful words so use them often, even online. Choose to respond with kindness first. That's how you want others to treat you, right?
8. Opinions of other people don't matter. You are your own person. Fight for what you believe is right (but always check your facts!). Picking a side is better than not caring at all about important issues. It's okay to agree to disagree.
9. Feelings are good, but emotions come in waves. So listen to your head, too. Being sad, heartbroken, or angry is okay. Don't bottle up feelings—find someone to talk to about them. Acting on feelings alone and impulsively is not always a good idea.
10. Mistakes don't define you. How you learn and move on from these errors do. It's true that they say: Failure is a better teacher than success.
11. Asking for help is not a weakness. Learning to be independent is the goal, but that doesn't mean you have to be alone. The poing is not to take advantage of someone's goodwill.
12. Life is an adventure, so enjoy it! Be true to yourself and go for what you want. Grab opportunities, take risks, and explore the world.
You don't have to wait until your child steps into high school to talk about the above. Discuss in baby steps, so you don't come off as a nagging mom. Drop a few when a teaching opportunity presents itself. You may not agree with all of the above, but it's important you keep your communication lines open to these topics. Your future teen may surprise you by asking about them.