This Way Out
Story // Michelle Jacoby
It’s Saturday night and your teen is busy getting ready for a night out with friends. As you watch her do her makeup and hair, you can’t help but wonder what the night holds for her. Will she be offered drugs or alcohol? Will she be pressured to have sex? Will she be in an uncomfortable position she may find it difficult to get out of?
The reality is you can’t go everywhere with your kids, so it’s important for your child to know how to make healthy choices and to deal with uncomfortable and, perhaps, risky situations. Here are some ways you can help provide an “out” for your teen:
Take the blame. If saying “no” makes your teen feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, tell him or her to simply blame it on you. They can say, “I can’t. My parents drug test,” or “My parents are really strict. They’ll take away my car if I get they find out.”
Read the signs. Help your teen plan an exit strategy for dealing with uncomfortable situations, such as developing a signal with a friend to tell each other they are ready to leave.
Find an alternative. Help your teen plan activities they can do with friends that don’t involve alcohol or drugs, such as going to sports events, hiking and bike riding, and going to the movies.
Let your teen know that you understand peer pressure and how strong it can be. Then help him or her think it through and plan what he or she would do in a tough or uncomfortable situation.
Thanks, But No Thanks
If your teen is confronted by a situation that violates their values, comfort or safety, they should be prepared to say “no” firmly, but graciously, by following these four steps:
N – Say “no.” Not “maybe” or “later.” Teach your teen to set boundaries and be decisive. If your teen makes the decision not to smoke, drink, do drugs or have sex before being confronted by pressure, it will be easier to say “no” when a situation arises.
I – Follow with an “I” statement: “I’m not going to have sex until I get married.” Or “I don’t plan to become a smoker.” Or “I don’t want to drink, it’s illegal for someone my age.”
C – If the pressure continues, “change.” Teach your teen to change the topic: “Did you see the game on TV last night?” Or change their conversation partner: “Julie is over there. I need to ask her something.” Or change the location: “I’m going back into the kitchen.”
E – If these strategies don’t help, your teen needs an “exit” plan. Teens should leave a bad situation immediately. If he or she doesn’t have a way home, you or a trusted adult will need to pick him or her up. It’s a good idea for you and your teen to have a pre-arranged code phrase that means, “Come and pick me up. And hurry!”
Practice these steps with your teen. Make sure your teen remembers the steps by asking, “What would you do if…” Then listen to how your teen would handle risky situations.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services