Vail Daily letter: Providing tools to teens
Ryan Summerlin November 7, 2013
Did you know that the average brain is not even fully developed until the age of 25? As a parent of three “very little people,” this is important for me to remember. Many of my friends and I are currently struggling with how to keep our young children in “time out,” needing to be reminded to pay attention to the positive and ignore the attention-seeking meltdowns. We endlessly support each other by being good listeners to the very normal parenting frustrations. In our community many of us truly are raising our children as a collaborative effort, since most of us do not have family nearby. We are living by the slogan, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As our children approach their adolescent years, this “village” becomes even more important.
As you know, teens face enormous challenges in decision making (coupled with peer pressure and insecurity) and many times can’t rely on their brains to help them make healthy and positive choices. Looking back at my adolescent years, there were topics of discussion that my parents really had stuck in my head. One of them was “stranger danger” — the knowledge to stay away from strangers. Next on the list was the use of drugs, alcohol and peer pressure. Rarely was a conversation had about “sex.” As a parent of adolescents, are you having these conversations? I can’t imagine that they are easy.
Being a teenager today comes with many challenges. The key is that we need to keep the lines of communication open with our kids and recognize the fact that through the Internet (and all of its glory) they are getting information (and misinformation) so much faster than we will ever be able to give them. We can assume that they know, but the question is: what do they know, or what do they think they know? It’s our job to listen and answer their questions, clarify and give them the right information so that they can make healthy, informed choices. And it doesn’t have to be the parent or the guardian. It can easily be mom’s best friend. Encourage them to talk to other trusted adults, if that is easier for them. Scaring them to death isn’t gonna work. They need the tools — they need education, honesty and they need to know the facts.
Red Ribbon Project educators begin these conversations with adolescents in middle and high school students in Eagle County. Our programs are developmentally appropriate, and are offered for free for fifth- through 12th-grade students. Red Ribbon Project is a community that values sexual health and well-being. If you are seeking additional resources in an effort to continue this ongoing conversation with an adolescent, please look at the links below for more information:
Red Ribbon Project is a proud recipient of the United Way of Eagle River Valley funding, along with numerous other corporations and businesses. Our United Way has a tremendous impact locally based on its rigorous grant application and funding process. United Way does much more than provide funding to community organizations. They also organize opportunities for volunteers to work with agencies in a variety of ways, facilitate donations of goods and payroll deductions from participating businesses, and provide outreach and presentations that benefit the Eagle County agencies and programs they support. To learn more about United Way of Eagle River Valley, visit the website at www.unitedwayeagle.org.
Executive director, Red Ribbon Project