It doesn’t matter what this code word is – it could even be an emoji. It matters that teens and parents know what it means and are committed to honouring it. For teenagers, the family code word is a way to get help whenever and wherever they need it, 24/7. For parents and caregivers, it’s a call to action. Hear it and they’re on the way – no questions asked at the time.
Talk to your teenager about how important their safety is to you – it’s paramount! While we respect their need to grow in independence and responsibility, and we support them to stretch their wings, we won’t compromise when it comes to the safety of our teens. And the reason for that – we love them. Unconditionally! Which means we will be there for them, no matter what.
Perhaps more teens would make safer decisions if they knew they would not get into trouble for the silly situation they were getting themselves into. This doesn’t mean there are not consequences for doing dumb things. It means safety first, consequences second.
Here’s a story one of our team shared with his kids this week. When he was a teenager, his parents had made it clear to him that he could call them for help whenever he needed it, no questions asked. One day he was with a group of teens, most of whom he didn’t really know that well. The decision was made to go to the bottle store and buy some alcohol. Somehow he agreed to drive someone’s dad’s van to the store on behalf of the group. Once at the bottle store, he decided that this was really not such a good idea, and realised that nothing good was going to come from this situation. So he called his parents, and they immediately came and picked him up. While they could have asked for more details once everyone was home safe and sound, to this day they actually still don’t know the reason he called! And he’s not sure what happened to the abandoned van either.
There’s a high chance we all have a similar story from our own teenage years – the circumstances will differ, but the potential for harm to self and others will have some sobering similarities. Talking about these ‘adventures’ with our teens won’t out as us unreliable and untrustworthy, quite the opposite – it will demonstrate empathy. We understand the risks a teenager is regularly faced with, and we’re passionate about supporting them to make good choices.