Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
For almost everyone, their parents are the single most influential set of people in their lives. Whether your mom or dad were great, mediocre, or less than ideal, it was their presence (or lack of) that, at some point in your life, began to define who and what you would become.
Just about every person who becomes a parent starts the path with the same outlook; they are determined to be a “better parent” than their own. They zero in on all those things they disliked as a child, on all the things that left scars, and they vow never to be guilty of the same actions or inactions. But parenting isn’t that simple.
The Challenge of Parenting in 2016
Parenting today is a whole new ballgame. It’s played in a brand new, high tech stadium equipped with Wi-Fi, Smart devices, mobile technology, social media, and this insanely huge and perilous landscape called the Internet.
The stadium we play in as parents is far from static. It changes, daily. New technology, new apps, and new social networks sprout from the Internet as rapid and wildly as the heartiest of garden weeds. But today’s techno landscape isn’t exactly a place where we can spray Roundup or dig out unruly vines attempting to choke out the life we are nurturing.
Most parents struggle to keep up with the technology their kids take to in mere minutes. And it’s making parenting downright distressing.
On a daily basis, our children are exposed to all kinds of media that’s for and against things like marijuana and alcohol. Five to eight years ago, we saw the same advertisements as our kids when we watched TV. Today, there are a whole slew of ads passing by their eyes that we may never even see thanks to user-based and user-targeted marketing.
Nurturing a strong parent-child relationship has never been more important. In an age where bits and bytes store and share information faster and more frequently than we change socks, parental understanding and support are the strongest tools in our figurative toolbox.
How a Parent-Child Relationship Impacts Youth
According to CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov, when the relationship between a parent and teen is filled with conflict or interrupted by distance, the teen becomes more likely to use alcohol. They are also at a higher risk of developing a drinking-related problem.
In contrast, when a parent and teen have a strong and trusting relationship, the opposite is the case. The teen is more likely to delay drinking and follow the advice provided by their parent(s). Advertisements and marketing promoting alcohol hold less power over them.
A parent-child relationship dramatically influences how a child chooses to act. When positive, youth tend to make better decisions, and should they make a mistake or find themselves in trouble, they go to their parent(s) for help.
When a parent-child relationship is negative, filled with conflict, cold, distant, or non-existent, youth flounder. They tend to make less than ideal choices, sometimes making bad ones in an attempt to gain wanted attention. Doing drugs or binge drinking alcohol can become their preferred choices in an effort to elicit a response.
Building a Relationship with Your Child(ren)
The challenge before parents is that of building a good parent-child relationship, but how? It may be easier than you think, and it all starts with communication.
Step 1: Establish Communication
The conversation about underage drinking starts with a conversation about alcohol. The only way to have this conversation is to establish communication.
Talk to your teen or tween. It may be awkward. You may feel unprepared. But the sooner you bridge the topic, the sooner those feelings will evaporate. You know more than your think and you’re firsthand experience—your personal stories—are the most powerful teaching tool in your parental arsenal.
Honesty is the secret ingredient to communication. It garners respect and attention.
Step 2: Show You Care
The one thing every child wants, whether they show it or not, is love. They want to know you care. They need to know that no matter what, they are important to you.
Don’t just say you care. Show it.
Regularly spend one-on-one time with your child. During this time, give them your undivided attention.
Step 3: Put Your Foot Down
Expectations are important. Set realistic ones for your child and enforce your rules.
Plainly explain what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Their actions have consequences. The sooner your institute this at home, the less likely they will be to make bad decisions with dire consequences outside of the safety of home.
Step 4: Acceptance
Your child isn’t perfect. They will make mistakes, and they will make bad choices even when they don’t mean to. Be ready for this.
Always let your teen or tween know that you appreciate and applaud their effort. Never demean, belittle, or tease them—this can destroy the relationship you are working so hard to nurture.
Step 5: Be Understanding
Show your child respect. It’s one of the hardest things for a parent to do, especially when your child’s behavior isn’t on point.
Recognize your child’s growing need for independence. Accept their need for privacy. You are still their parent, but they need space. Understand and adapt to their changing needs.
Preventing Underage Drinking
The connection between parent and child is special. It’s a bond of love, and it can also be one of protection.
Nurture a positive parent-child relationship. Start today, no matter your child’s age. Continually follow the steps above as you build it and you will see a positive change.
Drunk driving kills at least one child per week in North Carolina. Parents hold the most powerful defense against their child driving drunk or drinking underage, but a defense only works when used and used well. Are you up for the challenge?