Were We Ever Their Age?

When my sons wanted another gaming system, I instantly tried to justify why it was a bad idea based on my opinions on what they should spend their money on. After they walked away disappointed, my wife told me to remember what it was like to be their age again. As a parent, I never really gave it much thought until this past week when I attended the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum. Out of the 170 training sessions over four days, one really hit me smack in the face “You Were Never Their Age.” This one session completely changed how I now interact with my 5th grader and high school freshman.

In terms of calendar years, we were the same, but—we were never the same as our children. What was your world like when you were ten or fifteen? What year was it? How did you spend time with friends? Did you have a cell phone? What was neighborhood safety like? Was there even anything such as “internet safety?” Was there an app for that?

The world around us is continually evolving. Differences in technology, societal shifts, economy, education, politics, and life events have rapidly created very different childhood experiences for our children. As a parent, it is essential to understand the world our kids live in is vastly different from ours, but the one constant is our children need love, positive influences, and guidance for life. Sure, they were the good old days, but those were our days—not theirs. Unless you create those opportunities through daily experiences together, it will be hard to relate to your child’s perspective. Once I accepted that I was “never their age,” I created a stronger relationship with my boys about things that they are going through and a better understanding of how they view the world. I have even noticed they are starting to ask me how I am doing and just trying to make conversation throughout the day.

Here are two events to think about from a teen’s perspective: The COVID–19 pandemic and the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona. What would life be like for you if your freshman year of high school was all online? What would life be like for you as a middle school or high school student if you had easy access to high THC concentrates, marijuana oils, and the effects they cause on teen brain development? With the passing of Prop 207, legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults over 21 years old, youth will have easier access to THC products. You can decrease your child’s chances of using substances like alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills by storing them in a safe, secure location that will prevent the temptation.

As parents, we are trying to adjust to these circumstances we cannot control, let’s remember that your kids are going through this with you. As Dr. Peter Benson said, “Nothing-nothing-has more impact in the life of a child than positive relationships.” Now would be an excellent time to have conversations with them to make sure they are doing ok mentally with the stress placed upon them with the pandemic. Take this time to connect and help your child be the best version of themselves they can be, and make sure to let them know that you are not ok with underage marijuana use.


Author Joe Tracey is Youth4Youth Program Director and member of the WOW Coalition. This prevention association promotes safe and healthy choices and responds to problems caused by alcohol, marijuana, and Rx abuse by implementing strategies to prevent and reduce youth substance use. For additional information, visit www.wowcoalition.org or contact him at info@wowcoalition.org.

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