Communication is key
A few parents have asked me a version of the following question in the last few weeks: “In your line of work, what do you see as the one major challenge these days for teens and families?”
Well, in my line of work, there are a lot of themes and many challenges, but the one I can answer easily is: (I can’t believe I am about to say this, seeing as I was a very rebellious teen and hated when my mom did this) Parents don’t communicate with each other any more.
It seems simple, but these days with privacy being a precious commodity, parents shy away from asking too many questions. They are afraid to invade their peer’s privacy and their own child’s privacy. I am not saying parents should listen in on phone calls or spy on their children. I am saying asking questions and knowing who is in your community is an invaluable defense against losing control over a family.
I apologize and thank my own mom almost every day on my way home from work. I apologize because with some perspective under my belt I can see what I put her through. I thank her because she always (well, almost always) knew where I was and I knew I had somewhere safe to come home to. That being said, I hated she also knew whose parents were home, whose weren’t, whose allowed drinking at their home, and whose had access to other recreational drugs. She paid attention. She got to know my friends and their parents. They were a team, raising us all together. They were a force to be reckoned with.
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I grew up in Aspen, where the streets were safe, and where you could walk anywhere. You knew everyone. I remember sitting in an alley one afternoon when I was about thirteen, smoking a cigarette, and seeing one of my mom’s friends from a distance. I quickly put the cigarette out, thinking she didn’t see me. Not two minutes after I had gotten home did my mother say she had received an interesting phone call and asked if I had any news. My head dropped and we sat and had a long talk about smoking. I can’t say I never tried another cigarette again, but I thought twice, even three times about it, knowing someone who knew me was probably watching and wouldn’t hesitate to call my mom. As annoyed as I was this friend had gotten me busted, there was a sense of safety when I was out with my friends. Sure, we were regular teenagers, pushing the envelope, but we knew people cared and noticed us, which allowed us the net we needed to bounce back from the poor decisions we were making.
I am not a parent, so I don’t know how it really is to raise a teenager. I imagine it is terrifying. But I was a teenager, and I do know what made a difference in my relationship with my mom and in my own safety. My mom was lucky to raise me in a small town where it was easy to connect with other parents, teachers, officers, YouthZone workers, and counselors on a daily basis. She used her resources and asked questions.
Parents are supposed to be annoying to teenagers, that is their job. So I challenge all parents to start asking questions and bugging them. Find out who you can join forces with. I can’t promise they’ll love you for what you’re doing now, but I can promise that they will thank you later.
If you need support in asking the right questions and finding more resources, call YouthZone at 945-9300 or 970-920-5702.
Sarah Woods is a YouthZone case manager
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