Posted in Insight, Milestone Moments, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village, Teens, Underage Drinking & more, Wisdom of Youth

Right Relationship

When I posted that my teenager was ready to drink and smoke pot, readers offered all kinds of helpful suggestions, including one adamant woman who wrote: “NO, DON’T DO IT!”

Her clarion call continued:

Be the level headed pure kid who saves the others… the thoughtful clear-headed guy that makes the difference. The one who is sober and can be the designated driver, the one who does CPR on their friend when they have stopped breathing because they have overdosed on something they didn’t realize would affect them LIKE THAT… and be the one who has enough wits to figure out how or when to call 911 so their friend doesn’t die this one time because you were smart enough to notice that something just doesn’t or didn’t seem right and that something is life-threatening!

Other readers complimented my teenager’s honesty and our family’s openness; while professionals shared the statistics and the risks and the undesired outcomes. One mother took us in a completely different direction with hard-earned wisdom:

“Let go, and trust.”

A lone father chimed in suggesting that we explore both the dark and the light side of partying in order to get after, what my son was after, in making these choices.

Our family’s practice of non-violent communication (NVC) allowed us to do just that. Months ago when he made the proclamation that he was thinking about drinking, NVC enabled us put aside our agendas–to explore each of our needs.

I so clearly felt his need for fun and connection and exploration that I almost ran out and bought the booze myself.

He so fully heard my need for safety and responsibility and respect that he appeared defeated in his desires.

It was then that I realized how important this was to him.  Not just the partying, but the relationship.

As the months passed and his desire to explore intensified, I noticed that his need to stay in right relationship with us was competing with his need to stay in right relationship with himself.

As far as I can tell, we are approaching the break. The place where he chooses self over family so that he can move on to create his own life.

As a parent, I have to support that drive. The tricky part will be managing right relationship with myself as he begins to make choices without me.

Kelly Salasin, November 2011

To read more about parenting teens, click here.


Lifelong educator, writer, retreat & journey leader, yoga & yogadance instructor.

5 thoughts on “Right Relationship

  1. Hi Kelly, I have loved reading your exploration of underage drinking. I too am entering that phase of parenting and am finding it really hard to find a strategy to discourage underage drinking that fits into my relationship with Eli. Here in New Zealand the drinking age is 18, and for the most part seems to be mostly a bad thing. Not so bad that 18 year olds are drinking, but when 18 year olds drink, a lot more 14 year olds drink.

    From what I have read, the later we can delay, the better off everybody is. I have presented this to Eli as a challenge to see how long he can go. Eli can’t wait to party. Eli is the eldest son, of two eldest parents. He doesn’t want to disappoint us. Eli can’t wait to party! We allowed Eli to go to a party where we knew there would be 18 year olds who would be drinking. There was lots of sober parent supervision and kids underage were not expected to drink. It felt controlled, and safe, I let him go, and was happy he was having this experience in what seemed to be a safe environment.

    It was safe, it was fun. “People are so much friendlier when they have been drinking. So many people that I didn’t even know knew me were like. “hey Eli!” There weren’t big fights, nobody got alcohol poisoning, no one drove drunk, no one got hurt, no one even threw up. Lots of laughing. Did Eli drink? “Umm, I might have had a sip.” (Do I really want to know?)

    Part of me is glad he had this safe encounter in a foreign land. Perhaps this has modeled that having a few drinks in a safe environment is the way to go. But if I am honest, it has probably put him a few more paces closer to the inevitable. Eli can’t wait to party! My plan today is to try to keep the communication open while at the same time stepping up to my job as a parent, to know where he is, who he is with, and to sometimes say no.


  2. Hi Kelly:

    I’m sure you saw my response to Lloyd on your previous post. I hope that it was helpful, or at least sparked further discussion.

    From my experience I found the most important gift we can give our children is to get them through their teen years intact, strong and confident. Using drugs and alcohol does not help in any of those areas.

    From your previous post, “Other parents are of two minds–just say no (and expect it’s not happening) or just say nothing (and pretend it’s not happening.)” — There is a third option, parents who ”just say no” (in a clear, loving way explaining why you have made the decision that drugs and underage drinking are not allowed), then follow up and make sure that it is not happening.

    I would also suggest talking, possibly with some other parents as well, to your high school about what kind of drug education program they have for the students. I would ask that the students be educated about alcohol and drug use on a regular basis. Some of the most powerful ways are for young people to speak to the students about how drugs and alcohol have affected their lives. Sometimes a health class, or smaller groups are the best venue. I have a contact for a full school assembly and community event. If you are interested, let me know and I’ll send you the info.

    Besides the resources I left in comments on the previous post, here are some more:

    Partnership at is a site with a tremendous amount of information. They have a toll free line where you can call, maybe they could help you with any questions you might have regarding this issue. Their number is: 1-855-DRUGFREE.

    Sue Scheff: – Parent Advocate

    Drug Class, ( is a website and video with information for parents as well as teens on drug use out of Canada. They are shown in the states on the Halogen channel, but you can watch clips on the website and/or buy the videos.

    Dr. Michele Borba:

    All About Addiction, Teen learning exaggerates rewards – Bad decisions and brain development ( (drinking & driving)

    Good luck Kelly, I know these are challenging years, but my hope is that some of these resources will be of help to you.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

    Take care and I hope that your family stays healthy!


  3. You are so right Kelly. I often say parenting is more about what I must do myself, while the children do what they need to do. Lessons are learned all the time, but I have found my need for control more then helpful on many occasions ~ The process of individuation seems to be a requirement in developmental process… and peculiarly that includes group behaviors where adolescents lose themselves! Most of the time it does takes losing oneself to find oneself again.

    I know you will not lose each other, but yes there will be many challenging moments as this story continues to be carved. As the adamant sharer, (not screaming but rather making a vain attempt at emphasizing) varying opinions are what make the world go round… but darn I always hope for kids to be safe ~ and sometimes that comes with strong opinions that differ from youth with limited experiences seeking their own!

    Change is a constant and I must imagine the best for this current & next generation of teens and their parents, for in reality each day anew brings situations that in truth have never been dealt with before. Just as one can never put their foot into the same place in the river twice, it is fresh territory for all and in the not knowing and the wonder, the naturally curious want and need to dive into what seems previously unchartered not knowing what life changes will ensue.

    As a matter of course, until one reaches that crossroad, being distressed by navigational considerations was not a part of the plague. May “doomsday” only ever be a part of what might happen or could happen, rather then what does happen or did happen. I wish you all abundant peace, strong bonds, and appropriate blessings. There is always yoga dance \o/ for when you must throw your hands up 🙂


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