It is fair to say my teenage years have been a bit of a rollercoaster. From deaths to life-threatening situations and drug gangs to mental health issues. Basically, I haven't lived the boring, straight teenage life I, as a quiet little girl who wanted to be an icecream lady, would have ever had dreamed she would.
You learn a lot, I think, from being a teenager about how you're going to raise your own kids. I am consistently in situations where I think 'fuck me, what if my kids do this'. So I can understand why parents are so protective. My dad wants to wrap me up in bubble wrap, but I know he wasn't an angel as a child so I get it. Yet, I still think you learn some valuable key lessons about how you want to raise your children from the situations you have been in.
Firstly, I have learnt if your child's friends are having a bad time, your child most probably will be too. My old best-friend has severe mental health issues. Very severe mental health issues. I was put in situations that, as a 13-year-old girl, I didn't know how to deal with, and that I would never wish upon anyone else. That wasn't just her issue, she wasn' the only one that had to deal with her self-harm and suicidal thoughts. It was me too. I think we all underestimate how much people really take on their shoulders. How much people really want to help others. I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried, make anything better but the whole situation had a very negative effect on me. I was having a bad time. It taught me that if my child ever discusses a friend is going through some issues, not just to play it off as just the friend. If they are having issues, there is a possibility my child will be too.
Secondly, I have learnt that teenagers do dumb things, accept them and help your child learn instead of simply punishing them. I have done some dumb things. Very very recentlt I got in a car with people I don't really know which I shouldn't have done and they took me somewhere they shouldn't have done because they do things they shouldn't be doing. It was a bad situation. A very bad situation of which brought me the closest to death/other horrible things I have ever been. I got grounded. Very grounded. It doesn't help. I stand by the fact it doesn't help. Yes, it has an effect if your child hasn't tidied their room or done their homework, but when they have got themselves into a bigger situation restricting them fully doesn't help. If anything, all it has done is encourage me not to tell my parents about the situations I have been in through fear of getting grounded again. I am not saying you should accept what your child does without any form of punishment, grounding me for a few days but letting me out on certain occasions/when you're sure of where I'm going would have been great. I am just saying that punishing them too hard will have an opposite effect to the one intended. Talk to them, and help them grow from the mistakes they have made.
Next, don't believe what your child says but don't stop them. I have lied to my parents about where I am going and what I am doing multiple times. It is just what teenagers do, and I don't think you can ever believe your child, especially if they are going out overnight. That doesn't mean you should stop them just because there is a chance they're not telling the truth. As much as you probably want to, teenagers learn through doing. It's what happens. This leads onto my final point.
You have to tell them. About everything. You have to tell them about drugs, how to do them safely and what to do if something goes wrong. You have to tell them. You have to tell them about a range of sexual things, both the good and the bad. You have to tell them what to do if they get into a situation they need to bail on. No matter whether or not you hope your child doesn't get in that situation, teenagers drunk, they do drugs, they sit on the beach all night and talk to people they don't know. You can't stop them without making them hate you. So instead, tell them how to be safe in every situation. Tell them what safety precautions they can take. Talk to them. Make sure they feel as though they can tell you everything. I wish I felt as though I could speak to my parents more. If your teenager feels able to talk to you they are more likely to tell you when something bad happened or ring you when they are in a bad situation. They are more likely to tell you if they are having a bad time. They are more likely to tell you where they are actually going.
I know it's going to be difficult. When I'm a parent, I am going to think about all the bad things I did as a child and hope my teenager doesn't do that. But they probably will, no matter how much I try to wrap them up in bubble wrap. Learn from what you do, and learn how to raise others. I have been through a range of things that have taught me valuable life lessons, don't forget them. Use them.