They’ll go on the Internet, where they may unwittingly subject themselves to the predations of adults, or to cyber-assailants from their own school who trade in gossip and embarassing photos.
They’ll sample whatever you’ve got in your medicine cabinet for the fun of it. They’ll pile into cars driven by kids their own age.
While some of the risks that kids face today are as old as the combustion engine, others didn’t exist when their parents were teenagers. Modern parenting means, in part, sorting through potential menaces, old and new, that seem to await teenagers at every turn.
That’s not to mention the more mundane challenges kids face, such as how to balance school and extracurricular life, or how to cope with the stress of competing for coveted college openings. It can easily overwhelm even the most conscientious parent.
“Some parents feel really lost,” says Gilda Rogers, coordinator at the Source, Red Bank Regional High‘s guidance and counseling service. “They’re reaching out to us to help them. Others are just in denial until they have to face reality, when their kid is being carted off to the hospital or does something impulsive.”
Next week, an event jointly organized by district parents and RBR administrators will attempt to bring into focus some of the key hazards of teen life for the adults responsible for helping teens navigate them. “Surviving the Teen Years: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Your Teen But Were Afraid to Ask” is an adults-only forum scheduled for Thursday, April 17, beginning at 7p in the high school’s commons area.
Panelists with expertise in guidance, law and psychology will outline the threats and concerns kids face, and provide suggestions on how to head them off.
Parents from throughout the region are invited, whether or not they live in the school district. The event is free, and no prior registration is required.
The forum was organized by Shrewsbury’s Karen Lloyd, the parent of 11th and 7th-grade sons and chairperson of the Shrewsbury Drug & Alcohol Alliance, a substance-abuse awareness group funded by the Shrewsbury PTA.
“In today’s society, everything is done to the extreme, and everyone is introduced much earlier” to what used to be seen as adult risks, says Lloyd, a former CPA. “It’s all shifted down in age.”
Some of that shift has to do with technology. Today’s teen parties often get out of control, Lloyd says, because text messaging enables kids to instantly alert others when one’s parents have flown the coop for the night. Then, of course, there’s the Internet a facilitator of communication that can sometimes seem a minefield of hurtful gossip and worse.
Drugs and booze aren’t new, but the sources of stimulant and depressants may be. “Pharming” parties, for example, are those at which kids are said to harvest their parents’ medicine cabinets for whatever they think might get them high.
“A lot of kids are thinking that because it’s a prescription, that it’s not dangerous,” says Lloyd. “We try to educate parents about this to say, just as you lock up your liquor cabinet, lock up you medicine cabinet.”
The agenda for “Surviving” is packed, and suggests a cursory look at topics that in themselves could dominate a full weekend of discussion: drugs and alcohol, cars and the web. Lloyd acknowledges that the program is limited, and notes that many more topics simply wouldn’t fit into a couple of hours, such as respect for women and the dangers of gangs.
But she sees the event as the start of a continuing public dialogue that’s needed, not only between parents and officialdom, but among parents themselves.
“The best resource is talking with each other,” she says.
Panelists for “Surviving the Teen Years” include:
Eva Carella, RBR student assistance counselor
Lt. Louis Ferraro, detective, Shrewsbury Police Department
Dr. Susanne Fico, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional (RFH) student assistance counselor
Officer Peter Gibson, RBR school resource officer and Little Silver Police Department
Lenore Kingsmore, RBR director of student personnel services (guidance)
Stacy Liss, clinical supervisor, the Source at RBR
A representative from the Monmouth County prosecutors office
Each panelist will give brief presentation before opening up the topic to questions.
A representative from Barnes and Nobel in Long Branch will be have copies of numerous recommended reference materials for purchase.