A Letter Of Truth:
From Real High School Students To Lost Parents
The teenage mind can be one of the most beautiful things in the world. It can also be baffling to anyone who is not a peer, let alone twenty or thirty years older. We are talking about you, the parents. You raised us, taught us the rules of society and the way the world works…but so often the connection is lost as we get older. That is why we are writing this letter: we are the Youth Advisory Committee, a group of high school students around the South Bay who have banded together to promote alcohol and other drug-free lifestyles among our fellow youth. We are here neither to preach about parenting nor to provide solutions to your parent-child problems, but to give you a glimpse of the high school student’s mind as we ourselves experience it. Please remember that we are not relationship experts – we are just real teenagers who know the reality of high school.
First of all, high school is stressful. It does not matter whether our classes are more rigorous or not, because stress comes from teachers, relationships, extra-curricular activities, sleep-deprivation, and balancing everything in our lives the right way. We are adapting to an identity, finding ourselves, and moving away from childhood. Most parents have forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, and it does not help that most of us think that being a teenager in today’s world is a lot harsher than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Parents sometimes think that placing a lot of pressure on their students to go to the top college in the country will be helpful, but you have to understand that many teenagers become rebellious. For many students, this becomes a direct path toward alcohol and other drugs, which are extremely accessible in most high schools – more so than you might think. We tend to respond to a fair balance of guidance and disciplined freedom a lot better. Tell us your truth, your opinions, what you know to be right and wrong, but please trust us and openly care for us and our futures. We may not always say it, but for the most part we actually appreciate it if you have confidence in our abilities to be good people, or let us know that you are available to talk to about anything. If anything, do not belittle us. A lot of teenagers who feel they cannot find strength, foundation, or confidence in their home will turn to empowerment from harmful substances. In our times of insecurity, we need someone to talk to who we know will at least attempt to understand and not immediately turn to anger or disappointment. Otherwise, you could become another source of stress we will simply deny and avoid. Teenagers are talented in shutting things out – the key is to become a good example, be a part of our lives, be an honest helpful source of leadership, and provide a place to turn to over so many of the world’s distracting and often dangerous influences.
You may not know, however, if your child has already become a drug-user or alcoholic. There are definite signs parents seem to miss. In all probability, your child will attend a party and “experiment” at least once, but there is an extreme difference between one-time use and addiction. You should be very curious if you notice that: your kid is constantly tired (and it is not caused by schoolwork); you are missing large sums of money, or your kid is spending a lot on mysterious items. Also note if your teenage child is repeatedly missing school: you should be wondering where they are going. Missing school excessively can also be a sign of rebellion or a call for attention. Know who your child is spending time with, but do not judge immediately: there is no better place than high school to say that looks are deceiving. Above all, do not be in denial and do not ignore red flag warnings. Be firm about your policy on alcohol or other drugs, but remember that forward care and support are extremely important. We are young, but we are smart. If you are doing little to stop self-destructive behavior, we will wonder why. Do not stop trying to communicate with your child, because we appreciate the concern and attention even if it does not seem that way.
Nothing influences a teenager quite like the parent, so please be one; you are not helping if you are watching passively every day as we grow into an adult human being.
The Youth Advisory Committee
The above information is brought to you by the South Bay Coalition. The South Bay Coalition (www.sbcoalition.com) is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. The Youth Advisory Committee sponsors and runs middle school dances throughout the school year, runs the Late Night Sports program, participates in the Coalition’s Youth Summit Day for middle school students, and offers a speakers panel for area workshops and other events. Three YAC members serve as voting members on the Coalition’s Board of Directors.