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By Hanley Foundation Prevention Specialist Shannon Prieto

We have all heard the old phrases “you lay with dogs, you get up with fleas” or “if you play with a pig, you’re going to get dirty.” While these sayings may be outdated, they still ring true today. As adults we understand that the people we associate with can impact our lives and the way others perceive us. Unfortunately, teenagers lack this important insight and, as parents, we must be aware of the individuals our children spend their time with.

As children grow into teenagers, their relationships outside of the familial household become more important to them. Teens begin to spend more time outside the home and begin to share important issues with their peers instead of their parents and/or guardians. Parents are often left out of the loop and are blindsided when they do find out what has been happening in their teen’s life. 

Mothers and fathers begin to question where they went wrong. Statements will be made such as, “I raised him better than that” or “She has never behaved like that in my house”. This very well may be the case. However, as our children age, we tend to let go of the reins a bit. Children grow and we give them more responsibilities; we begin to expect more from them. It is our job as their parents or guardians to get them prepared for the next stage in their lives, not to live their lives for them. Therefore, we become complacent and comfortable when things are going well, until they don’t.  

Has your child ever had a friend that you might have felt uneasy about? Maybe you see a pattern of things happening when that teen is around your home. Perhaps you have never witnessed this friend do anything wrong, but there is a feeling deep within you that you just know there is trouble brewing. Do not discredit your instincts. Speak to your child about your concerns. Get to know the friend and his/her family better. You may have to put an end to some friendships because you can recognize red flags when your teenager cannot. 

Teens do not have the ability to foresee the consequences of their actions. Teenagers act first and think later. What might seem like a good time to them in the moment can have severe consequences for them later in life. It is our duty as parents and adults to be their fortune tellers in a sense. Our brains are developed, and we have our own personal experiences that we have learned from. Share those experiences with your teens. Keep an open dialog, be sure to spend quality time with them, and let them know they are loved and cherished. 

No one walking this earth that has gone through the teenage years can say they never did anything nonsensical when they were a teen. If you find yourself speaking to a teacher, principal, detective, or judge because your precious child has momentarily lost their mind, remember you too were a teen once. Provide your child with a good dose of discipline, a heaping load full of love, and remember while the journey through the teenage years is difficult, it just makes the end reward that much sweeter. 

If you are in Alachua County and are currently have troubles with your teen, you are not alone. Below are a set of resources to consider: