Teen  Boys, Sex, and Alcohol

by Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.

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Article Copyright © 2018 Center for the Challenging Child

This is a real exchange, published with names changed, and permission from the writer.

Hello Tina,

We met with you years ago when our kids were toddlers and bedtime nearly drove us crazy. They are all teenagers now and I would give anything to go back to those simpler times. My oldest is a 17-year-old boy. His grades are decent. He works a part time job around 20 hours a week. He is not doing a spring sport so he can work and save for college. I know that he and his friends sometime drink. There are two times that I am sure of. He has had the same girlfriend for 2 years now so I worry about sex also. I have tried to have many conversations and talk about what we believe and try to find out what the motive was to drink and where things are headed with the girlfriend and encouraged him to make a thoughtful decision when he is not “in the moment” so that he can fall back to that when the heat is on.

The main issue is in 6 months he is moving off to college and I worry about him making good decisions. I know a certain amount of college partying is very normal, but still worrisome. Any advice?

Thank you ~
Sharla
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Hi Sharla,

I’m happy to hear from you!  It sounds as if you have a wonderful 17-year-old who is going through the normal experiences of adolescence.  I hope that knowing this is very typical helps to relieve some of the stress you’re feeling.  And here are some ideas to help you navigate it:

  1. Let the positives of his life settle into your brain.  His grades are decent, he’s working and saving for school, he has a lasting relationship with his girlfriend.  He’s doing so many things right!
  2. Another huge plus: You have shared your values with him.  As I like to say, “Teens can’t let you know that they hear you, because they are busy individuating and becoming “not-mom.”  This is a necessary developmental step, and all healthy kids do it.  But once you’ve put your message about your values in him, they’re in there, rest assured.  He just can’t say, “Thanks, I got it,” at this point.  No need to repeat yourself about these now, as he knows how you feel, and repeating just becomes irritating.  I know, teens are very sensitive about this, but again, it’s normal.
  3. Your worry about drinking and sex are justified.  You don’t want him to become a father too young, and you don’t want him to break the law by drinking or become an alcoholic.  But reminding him repeatedly will not get you what you want, and he’s old enough now that you cannot control him.  It’s easy to think that a parent should control her son, but it’s just not possible, nor is it your job now that he’s 17. It’s your job to recognize the myriad ways in which he does control himself.
  4. You can help to reinforce his positive behaviors by letting him know how proud you are of him and the many good decisions he’s made so far.  He’s made a lot of good decisions, and he needs to hear that you see them, if he hasn’t already.  Writing them in a note is a powerful way to communicate, as writing weighs more than talking. Plus, guys at this age become “allergic” to their mothers’ voices – I raised three of them, and it’s just the way it is as they become men.
  5. The more you recognize his goodness, the more you will see.  You will also be drawing him toward you instead of pushing him away, which is huge.
  6. Does he have access to condoms? Tell him where to get them if you think he doesn’t.  This looks like condoning pre-marital sex, but if it’s already happening, it’s not going to end because you want it to.  The best solution is to be sure he’s having safe sex.
  7. The motive to drink is the same as it is for 17-year-olds world-wide. They are blossoming adults and this is an adult activity.  If you have seen him under the influence, but not overly drunk, you might want to say, “I’m glad you’re not overdoing it, and I’m glad you’re home safe.”  It’s the same as with sex; you don’t have the power to stop it because he’s growing up, but you do have the power to influence mindful use of it.  If he is overwhelmed by guilt from you, it may have the opposite effect from what you want, and give him a reason to drink more to suppress his feelings (the number one reason people drink.)

I hope this is helpful, Sharla.  Let me know if you’d like to talk more about this, and we can set up an appointment.  Place your trust in your son now, as he’s just learning to trust himself, and he can learn self-trust from your words and attitudes.

Best,
Tina

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for information on parent coaching. 

 

 

 

 

 

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