This question comes up a lot, since I work as a parenting consultant near Boulder, Colorado, which is the pot-smoking capital of the world (or something like that.) And whether we actually smoked pot or not, there are parents all over the country who did things as teenagers that we hope our children will not do.
So how should you answer questions about high risk behaviors you indulged in as a teenager? Ultimately, that’s your call. Some parents decide to simply lie. And unfortunately, I think they may be missing out on an opportunity to impart some valuable information when they shut down the conversation that way.
Other parents feel that honesty in communication is very important, but are fearful that if they tell the truth their child will perceive it as some kind of endorsement or validation to go ahead and try it themselves.
I’ve prepared a script for parents who want to make the most of this opportunity to engage with their teenager:
Well, honey, I’ll be honest with you. I’m not proud of some of the choices I’ve made in my past, and _________ (sex, drinking alcohol, smoking pot, etc.) in high school is one of them.
I tried it because I __________ (wanted to be cool, was curious, didn’t want to be left out, was mad at my parents, didn’t care what happened to me, couldn’t think of anything better to do, believed my friends when they said it was harmless, etc.).
And what I found out was that it wasn’t harmless at all. It was ________ (risky, illegal, damaging, the reason my grades fell, taking away my ambition, a waste of my time and money, etc.).
In fact, my friend kept doing it after I quit, and he ________ (never made it to college, got a criminal record, got fired, got in an accident, etc.).
I’m guessing you asked me because you are facing your own decision, yes? I’ll be honest here, I really don’t want you to get involved with ________, and I’m going to try as hard as I can to convince you to avoid it.
That being said, I hope you will always feel free to come to me with any questions or concerns you might have, because it’s important to me that the channels of communication stay open between us.
So, please, tell me more about what’s going on for you, and why you were wondering about my past. I’m listening.