Fantasy Land

Parenting a tween or teen is, in many cases, a lot like disarming a time bomb.

Too much force, and boom! Too little forward progress too slowly…same thing.

Imagine someone crazy enough to pretend there is no bomb.

Too many parents I’ve met live in a special place. Out here with the rest of us, their kids are potheads who have lost their virginity long ago. In their warm, cozy fantasy world, their kids are the Cleaver boys: lovable, mischievous, but give ’em a half hour and they’ll be fine.

A little angel in our neighborhood skipped school one day. He’s going downhill fast. The single mom showed up, going door to door looking for him. This is when she “found out” her son was smoking pot. Apparently his staggering around the neighborhood stoned or going to dinner high night after night weren’t enough of a clue for this woman. Maybe we should nail a flashing neon sign to his ass that says “STONER” for his mom to get the message.

The most amazing portion of this mini-drama was momma wondering why no one told her that her son was smoking pot just like his older brother. What are the odds of that happening?

I’m wondering how these conversations go. I’m about to have one.

For various reasons, I’m going to have to let a lady who “doesn’t want her daughter dating or hugging boys because she’s too young” know that her daughter has done things sexually that I have yet to do, in places I would never do them for safety, legal and hygiene reasons. The girl may already be pregnant.

Teachers have the same problem. On the one hand they can’t really tell the parent they think the kid is a demonically-possessed psychotic little jerk. That’s just destructive (even if it’s true). At the same time, the parent needs to know that while their child may have many fine qualities, improvement is necessary to help the child develop properly.

So there is definitely a balance in all of this. I would personally feel horrible standing idly by while another teen mom gives birth to a child she can’t really care for.

Too many people are willing to watch the disaster happen. For minor things, maybe minding your own business or mentioning something once is all that can be done. But how would YOU feel if your child got pregnant when you thought they were a virgin? How would you feel if your child was being bullied and everyone knew it but you? How shocked you be to find your supposedly squeaky-clean child was ARRESTED for drug use? Kids can end up dead or in big trouble fast these days. How would you feel if you didn’t at least try to do something?

Here are some things to think about if you are thinking of bringing a parent back from Fantasyland:

1. There is usually a very ugly back story. Kids are USUALLY (though not always) screwed up for a good reason, or a BUNCH of good reasons. Keep this in mind before you say anything. Choose your words carefully.

2. There is very often a good reason the parents aren’t aware of what is going on. They may be so stressed out about trying to keep their job and house that they have nearly forgotten they have children. It’s easy to do.

3. If you say too little, the parent may continue to ignore the problem.

4. If you are too harsh, you’re going to sound like a jerk and the parent is going to think you’re just a jerk, ignoring all you have said.

5. While you are letting them know there is a problem, make sure you offer constructive solutions.

6. Offer help if they want it. And mean it. Be prepared to help for awhile if necessary.

7. Your offer of help may be rejected, so you may have to walk away.

8. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you may be able to report it, and if it’s serious enough, that might be a good idea.

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