My hometown greeted 2014 with the lawful sale of recreational cannabis. Naturally, parents and educators are talking a lot about marijuana here in the 303. The debate is a many-tentacled beast in our local zeitgeist, and I will address various aspects of it in a series of blog posts here.
Today, real questions to ask when the situation gets real.
Here in Colorado (if not everywhere), it is likely for parents to suspect their kids are smoking pot. Most often, it's not the end of the world, but unhealthy behavior of any kind is cause for some parental alarm.
My observation of teenagers (and their parents) throughout the years tells me we need new role models.
Once again, Mama Bear is a useless example; at this point in her family's growth, she's probably off sleeping somewhere. When faced with a kid who may or may not be high, my TEN NEW ROLE MODELS for parents might ask the following questions.
[As always, it is vital to first step away from the situation, take a breath, and be sure we KNOW, PROTECT, and HONOR our teenagers.]
Role Models Who KNOW
1. Private Investigator (Study Them) asks: "Is there a problem?"
This new role model instructs us to pay attention to clues such as: lighters in pockets, notes from friends requiring research on urbandictionary.com, greater-than-usual interest in privacy, weird exit patterns, and time-stamps on social-media posts.
2. Mother Falcon (Watch Them) asks: "To what degree is there a problem?"
She discerns between comparatively harmless teenaged shenanigans (including all sorts of experimentation) and Real Trouble. If grades are acceptable and the child generally acts respectable and responsible, she notices, but she does not intervene. The minute she observes real signs of depression, angst, self-hatred, or permanent, life-altering behaviors, she swoops in and gets her child to safety. (Please note: quite often, "safety" means expert or professional help, which in turn can help restore a sense of family balance.)
3. Telemarketer (Pester Them) asks, "What does this kid need to hear?"
And then keeps saying it. Again and again, no matter how much the kid seems to hate it. If the child needs affirmation, affirm. If the child needs correction, correct. Again, again, and again. There is no other hope for our messages eventually sinking in.
Role Models Who PROTECT
4. Soldier (Guard Them) asks, "How do we reinforce boundaries?"
Once parents have determined the nature, strength and source of a problem, it takes tactical genius to keep kids safe. Soldier on; semper fidelis; over hill, over dale; our kids are worth it.
5. Personal Trainer (Work Them) asks, "Shall we go for a run?"
...or a hike, or a swim, or a trip to the gym, or skiing or boxing or rollerblading . . . . When teenagers get lost, we cannot underestimate their need for physical activity. Stress-relieving, hormone-releasing, brain-balancing, good-for-your-body exercise. They need to break a sweat every single day. (Note: Those in need of more serious consequences benefit immeasurably from good, old-fashioned, prison-style hard labor. A pile of rocks, in need of shoveling, is an excellent thing to keep on hand when teenagers dwell in your home.)
6. Pre-School Teacher (Rest Them) asks, "Do you need a nap?"
Teenagers are under a lot of pressure. They usually go a mile a minute and keep a dizzying array of balls in the air. Like their former toddler selves, they need a break. Oftentimes, a literal nap--maybe even with a familiar teddy bear--soothes the adolescent beast. Other times, help teenagers find different ways to relax, unwind, unplug, detox, play, rest. Without down-time, their brains are too busy to make sound decisions.
7. Ninja (Ambush Them) asks, "Surprised to see me HERE?"
Also, "Surprised I knew THAT?" and "Betcha didn't know I could do THIS, did you?" As adolescents cultivate secrets and seek hidden pleasures, this role model encourages us to keep them on their toes. We can surprise them with our presence--in real or virtual places--and with our knowledge of pop culture and the ways of the wicked world. I promise you, the disorientation a teenager feels when their experience collides with ours is enough to keep them guessing. And sometimes, that alone might keep them safe.
Role Models Who HONOR
8. Sage on a Mountaintop (Mentor Them) asks, "What's really bugging you?"
As I have discussed, I think it matters little what form their transgression takes. If a teenager is acting out or engaging in destructive behavior, something's up. As you know (if you have a current teenager), we parents are rarely the people they seek for guidance. Be aware of their influences--and take some control over the adults with whom they interact--and help them seek good mentors. Teachers, coaches, family members, bosses, counselors . . . bless the other adults who help our children find their way to themselves!
9. Artist (Forgive Them) asks, "What can you change?"
This new role model reminds us to see our teenagers for the messy, imperfect works-in-progress they are. If we can forgive them for making mistakes--even better, if we can help them learn from mistakes--we can help them make changes to avoid repeating them. Laugh with them; release them from the tyranny of perfection; forget the perfect offering; "call it art" and move on!
10. Mother Falcon (Push Them.) asks, "That's a bummer, isn't it?"
Natural consequences are Mother Falcon's wheelhouse. It is inconceivable for her to let her chicks remain in the nest, or to flap their wings for them as they plummet through the air on their first awkward flights. She teaches her kids to fend for themselves, and then she lets them do it. When our teenagers face consequences for their wayward actions, this role model reminds us to sit back and enjoy it. As much as we should remain vigilant, we should refrain from rescuing. Mother Falcon earns her spot twice on my list precisely because she exemplifies this precious balance.
Please stay tuned for more installments! Follow me on twitter @lisafilholm; tune in often to www.beyondmamabear.com; book a workshop or lecture for your parenting group now!