Today a close friend of my daughter turns 18. The birthday girl is a little pocket rocket of confidence, laughter and fun. My day is always so much brighter when she pops into that day. I wish her much happiness and a long life of building wonderful memories, contentment and challenges in whatever career paths she travels and good health as she journeys through her time on this earth.
I can remember when my own girls (now in their early 20s) turned 18. It was with an element of fear and dread overshadowed by all the terrible stories around a small town and through the media about young people increasing alcohol consumption and ‘hard partying’. In the eyes of many sections of society they were now independent. I thought my ability to influence and guide was now non-existent…that something magical happens overnight and they can now make their own decisions.
Was I ready to throw them to the wolves of the world, have I equipped them with all the tools and knowledge they needed to survive as young adults? Especially now that at 18 they are legally able to drink alcohol.
All 3 of my girls passed through their 18th year differently yet similar. Boundaries were tested. Reflecting on this time – these are some of my observations, a pinch of advice if you will.
- The liver will recover from short term abuse, don’t be melodramatic about being an alcoholic after one or two parties
- Get to know their friends. This will give you a sense of security that your child is safe with them. As Daughter 1 proudly said after one of early introductions to partying “Its true mum, a real friend will hold your hair back while you spew”
- Get the mobile number of one or two of these friends and use in emergency only. After a night out I would start to contact my child about 10 the next morning…if they hadn’t replied by midday the text/phone call would say Im about to contact <friend>, last chance. This was enough to get a reply.
- Let your children know that you will come to get them no matter the time, no matter where. Tell them you are sleeping with your phone, its OK to wake you. I can count on one hand the times that I had to drive along some lonely country road while kangaroos and wildlife jumped out of nowhere to pick up a distressed, cold, intoxicated child and others. Don’t use it against them later, just do it and move on.
- No matter what the story or incident react on the inside, do not react on the outside. Listen and keep calm. You want them to tell you what happens, that way you can guide and provide gentle advice.
- You are the parent, don’t try to be the best friend. They are different and need to be. Don’t think that it is OK to party with your child’s friends, especially in pubs and clubs.
- Trust them. Don’t think about all the “what ifs”, trust your child and the values you instilled them over the last 18 years.
- Trust yourself and your instincts. Dont always listen to the neighbour, the mother in law, the experts on TV shows or what you read in books.
- Let them make some mistakes. There is no better lesson learnt in having to turn up to work and work all day after partying all night the before. Let them learn this for themselves.
- They will outgrow it (I think girls do quicker than boys!)
- Make sure they know you will forgive them
- Tell them you love them often, and especially before they leave for a party
- Let them grow and learn