This is a new kind of school year for me with my 5 kids. I officially have a child in every school – elementary school (1st), middle school (6th, 7th, 8th) and high school. I just have to take that in for a second – I have a HIGH SCHOOLER! That’s crazy to me. This is the first time as a mom that I’ve had all of my kids spread out throughout the different schools. And as you can imagine, each school and each grade/age of my kids brings on new (and sometimes challenging) experiences.
When I think about my daughter in 1st grade and the challenges that I have with her it’s so different than my middle school and high school kids. With my daughter it’s things like – is she eating her whole lunch, does she have someone to sit with at lunch, is she getting on the right bus, etc. The “things” I worry about are a lot different than the things I worry about with my sons. I’m now worried about “big” kid things that all parents of tweens and teens know all too well.
As our tweens and teens get older, it’s pretty cut and dry – more pressures are put upon them and usually (sadly enough) from other peers. I remember being in middle school and hearing about some of my peers pressuring others to drink and do drugs. It was always crazy to me that the pressures came from their own friend groups. Friends don’t make friends do things they don’t want to do, but it’s not always easy for kids to stand up for themselves and say “NO.” It’s so important for parents to talk to their kids about leading healthy lifestyles and share with them what they can do if they get put in situations they don’t want to be in.
To make it even easy for tween and teen parents, Responsibility.org created the Ask, Listen, Learn program, specifically for tweens (ages 9-13) as a way to help start conversations about why a healthy lifestyle is important, and why that healthy lifestyle doesn’t include underage drinking. My goal is for my kids to be prepared for this topic when (and if) it comes up with their friends. As uncomfortable as it can and might be to talk about underage drinking with your kids, it’s a conversation that really needs to be had and had frequently. I don’t want my kids to be blindsided by the pressures and not know what to do and/or what to say. Ask, Listen, Learn is such an incredible resource to help empower you with advice and tips on how to handle the conversation and answer the questions that might come your way. This resource for parents is invaluable because it will help you teach your kids about the long-term and short-term consequences that underage drinking can have on a developing brain and body. These are things kids sometimes don’t think about, and this program will give you the tools to share this important information. It’s still important to stress that underage drinking is illegal, risky behavior, don’t get me wrong! But these resources open up lines of conversation that help educate kids about the “why” behind the “NO.”
I’ve been having these discussions with my sons since my oldest son William was 11 years old (he’s now 15). With the help and the guidance from the Ask, Listen, Learn program, I’ve been able to open up the conversation early with him and all of his brothers. The good thing is that I see that it’s making an impact. Kids will always have pressures, but I want them to know that we’re here to help them navigate through them. My sons are great about telling us what’s going on around them, and as parents we’re good about making sure they’re making healthy decisions. I also have been encouraging my kids to be leaders or examples in their friend and peer groups. It’s not always easy to be the one saying NO, but when you have others around you doing the same thing, it makes it just that much easier.
When it comes to your kids’ friends, you really want to make sure you know who they’re hanging around with. My advice? Get to know the parents, I feel like this will really help you figure out if your child is hanging around with kids who have some good examples at home. The older my kids are getting, the more I’m tuned in as to which parents are “on top” of their kids. I appreciate parents who want to know what’s going on and want to be involved. These are the kinds of peers I want my kids around. It’s all about making the best decisions and with that comes deciding which kids to be friends with, too. You want kind friends. You want friends who will stand up for you and have your back.
I believe it starts at home, and we need to make sure we’re doing what we can to open up the conversation about healthy life choices early on. But it’s also just as important to make sure our kids are surrounded with friends who will make those good decisions, too. Keep inspiring and encouraging your kids to encourage their friends to make healthy choices, too. This is the age when kids start to understand and ask more and more questions, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with each other. If we’re all in this together, it will be that much easier for all of us. Here’s to saying YES to healthy lifestyle choices and NO to underage drinking.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored partnership with Responsibility.org’s Ask, Listen, Learn program. All opinions are 100% my own.