One of the thoughts going on in my head today is of a 17 year old kid who was killed in a car accident this past weekend. The kid lives near my neighborhood and goes to the local high school. Many parents I know knew of this kid or has their own kids who knew him. The newspaper didn't do a very good job of explaining the nature of the accident but I got some inside info.
The accident happened around midnight. The kid was speeding through a gated community racing to get to his friend's house. He and his friends were notorious for speeding and driving recklessly. He was also drinking prior to getting into the car. He also was not wearing his seat belt. He wrapped himself around a tree. He was not killed instantly. He lived for another 3 days but if he had lived he would have been severely brain damaged.
I used this example quite poignantly with my own two teenage boys, one who is learning right now how to drive. Fortunately I didn't have to get far with my explanation before it was THEM who asked me "was he drinking?", "was he speeding?", "was his seat belt off?" I told them yes on all counts.
Raising teenagers is a tough business. In my opinion it's the hardest phase of parenting that I have been through. You are battling many things going on at one time such as hormones, know-it-all-itis, and still undeveloped brains. When you combine that with the dangers of driving, it's difficult.
I decided that I would always be as direct with my teens as possible with a lot of the risky behaviors that they will face. Everything from sex to drugs to drinking to driving. I present all of the facts as best as I can and we have LOTS of discussions. I am as open and honest as I possibly can be. And it appears to be paying off. My sons have come to me to discuss their most private inner thoughts that they tell no one else. They ask me to keep their feelings private and I respect that. They know I won't lie to them or make fun of them. And sometimes it's difficult to see the rewards but when they come I feel so much better that what I am saying and doing is getting through in many different ways.