by Rachele Alpine Mielke
The month of May is filled with end-of-the-school-year festivities including proms, graduations and parties. While it is a time of celebration, it also can be dangerous for teens. We talked to local professionals to get advice on how to discuss the importance of teens protecting themselves and making smart decisions this season.
“My tip is to listen to your kids in a nonjudgmental way. If they know they can talk to you about topics like sex or parties, they will be much more likely to call you if they need to remove themselves from a problem situation. Remind them that you were a teen once and probably had the same feelings, problems and insecurities — even give them an example. While setting clear expectations, try to listen more than lecture.” — Lori Reigert | High School Counselor
“Tell them to be smart — don’t go places alone or with people they don’t know — and consider the future implications of their choices. Things like driving under the influence are dangerous and illegal. Texting and posting certain types of pictures can be illegal and they never know who is looking at them. Nothing on their phones or online is ever completely deleted. The internet
is forever.” — Anne Konarski | Child Welfare Attorney
“Remember that we are our choices. As the school year winds down, it is important to make choices that truly reflect who you are and to act in a way that is authentic to your character. Enjoy the festivities but have integrity and respect for yourself and others. Also, be aware of what is going on around you and reach out to those you trust if you have any concerns. Be proud of who you are and celebrate in the most positive way you can.” — Amanda Alpine | Community Counselor
“Communication is the key. My tip is to be open and honest with your kids. Please don’t sugarcoat your conversations because you are trying to protect them from sex, drugs, parties and any other issues that may be going on. These types of situations will come up, so creating an open, honest conversation between parent and child will help you get through them. Remember, don’t talk at them, talk with them.” — Megan Schoene | Intervention Specialist
“Frequent and honest conversations help build trust and openness between you and your teen. Set a safe, judgment-free space to talk. Share your concerns and expectations and allow them to do the same. When we educate youth to recognize warning signs of a harmful or potentially unsafe situation, and give them the tools to intervene safely, we can empower them to become socially responsible. Lastly but most importantly, affirm to them that if they ever experience or witness something unsafe, that they can turn to you.” — Katie Kurtz | Clinical Manager, Department of Human Services, City of Lakewood