Join me in welcoming Maggie to Gloria’s Corner. Today Maggie will share some information on preventing teens from taking the wrong road. Enjoy!
How to prevent your child from taking a wrong turn
In my novel Sleep Before Evening, a brilliant prodigy teenager named Marianne finds herself slipping down the treacherous path of heroin addiction. It’s fiction to be sure, but one of the key inspirations for me as a parent, was to explore the way a well cared for, high achieving child might move, step to step, down that slippery and dangerous path.
There are all sorts of examples of bad parenting in the book, making it easy for my protagonist to move along her negative path. But there are also examples of good parenting; of people striving to do their best in whatever difficult circumstances they find themselves in. Marianne’s mother Lily is a bi-polar artist, and her illness is not only part of which she has become, but how she relates to her daughter. While the novel is ultimately redemptive, with a positive outcome and a positive message, it isn’t meant to be salutary or didactic. But fiction writers don’t dabble in solely made-up worlds. If your characters don’t follow a path which is realistic and utterly believable; progressive and natural; they won’t work for the reader. As an author, you have to go mentally to the places your characters go, even when those places are black indeed. It has to be real. It has to have the kind of truth that is almost truer than nonfiction, because you are also taking your readers there. You’re showing rather than telling, to cite that old writer’s chestnut.
As a mother, I continue to ponder how a child of mine might stray, and how I can help prevent that from happening while my children are still young. It may be wishful thinking, but I like to think that there are reasons why one child might say yes to something which is bad for them and one might say no-something deeper and more reliable than simply luck. So, after much pondering, here are five things which I think may make the difference between a child who is willing to try something they know is bad for them, and a child who won’t go beyond a certain point when it comes to self-destructiveness.
1. Self Confidence.
Your child needs to love his or herself to make the right choices. There’s an awful lot that parents can do to help develop self-confidence in a child. A lot of praise is the key. You have to really mean it too. It isn’t hard at all. Everything about our children is wonderful – all we have to do is notice all the fantastic things they do and tell them so, and tell others in their presence.
2. Did I say notice? Make time for your children.
If necessary, schedule them in. Mommy days. Daddy days. One on one, listening, taking time where you can really connect. Treat them with respect during this time. Talk to them about your own dreams using real language. Let them talk to you and put aside the parent mantel for a bit – just listening and letting them bounce ideas off you. That sense of trust is critical when they may be exposed to things they don’t understand.
That means giving them space to stretch – find out who they are, and make their own decisions. Lots of activity and lessons are great, but they also need relaxation and play time where they can think and dream and just explore who they are.
Kids can be really funny. Take the time to laugh at their jokes and tell your own to them. It’s good for you too and will help develop self-respect and keep those all important channels of communication open.
5. Pay attention.
This one may be the most important. I don’t think there’s any substitute for parental intuition. You have to keep your eyes open for your children’s moods, sensitivities, issues, and sometimes you have to winkle problems out. It helps if they trust you not to explode at them if they’ve made a big mistake. Sometimes they just need a shoulder to cry on, not advice.
So there you have it. I’m a loquacious sort of gal, and I’ve tried very hard to keep this brief – each of those five points would make a good solid book. Now for the big disclaimer – I’m only a mother and fiction writer. I’m not a psychiatrist, or a health professional. And my oldest child is only ten. So I’ve yet to put these theories to the real teen-test (but it’s coming.). Check back with me in six or so years. In the meantime, this is the best I can do. Which is all any mother can offer.
Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader http://www.compulsivereader.com/html. Her stories, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in many printed anthologies and journals, and have won several awards. She is the author of The Art of Assessment, Quark Soup, and Sleep Before Evening.
Thanks Maggie for sharing your article with us.
Thanks and have a great day.
Till next time,