Spring break is one of those holidays in which - "traditionally" - teenagers engage in binge drinking, drug abuse and more. Imagine the freedom they feel: turning 16 with no "responsibilities", having everything: cell phones, enough money, even a car. They can "do whatever they want". They go on group trips and parties. The first drinks generally break the ice and, since they are very well aware that their behavior is illegal, it gives them an additional adrenaline rush and makes them think they are in control, "like grown-ups"; it's "fun". But they are not and it isn't.
In their excitement and ignorance about the consequences of their actions, they do vodka and tequila shots on empty stomachs, they mix different kinds of drinks and when they try to stand-up, they pass out; it's too late. Consequences of this behavior can be dangerous and serious, they can include life or death situations, because rarely do their drinking buddies call 911 in case of an emergency occurs, because either they are too intoxicated and cannot identify the situation as an emergency, or they fear getting caught doing something they know to be illegal.
When our teenagers have to face all of this, the question is: can they make the right decisions and avoid these behaviors?Every parenting act (or omission) comes to bear now. It is now when our children look back at what we told them (or didn't) for a reason to avoid this harmful behavior or just "go for it!"; we can only hope that whatever we told them as parents will help them do the right thing when they encounter these situations.
I recently read the article "The Business of Happiness" by Nancy Cook in the excellent Fast Company magazine.
The article explains how the anticipation of a pleasurable experience feels as good as finishing an onerous task (like a marathon or an exam). They discovered that a meaningful experience such as volunteering often makes people happier than moments of pure pleasure.
Unknowingly, it seems that we have being trying to apply these concepts while raising our children. Kids like to feel happiness through meaningful experience - helping Dad finish an almost impossible job, for example, organizing the garage, or mowing the lawn. Helping mom fix a closet. These are volunteering kind of experiences that will make them feel happy and proud about "helping mom and dad", rather than just a moment of pleasure, like giving them money to buy some candy or an iTunes app.
The article goes on to mention that studies have found that happiness for young people is about excitement and that happiness for adults is about peacefulness. When "selling" an idea, a house rule, it is much better done through this kind of process - believe me, we've tried them all. Playing with a young child in order to get him to fix the bed together before leaving to school is better than yelling at him "go do your bed or else you will be late for school!!!!". It is also generally faster and you make sure it's done.
Playing some music, singing and dancing silly old songs while fixing the dishes is a more playful, joyful and fun way of making them do the dishes, rather than fighting over who did the dishes yesterday and whose turn it is today. All of them will rather have fun at the kitchen with whoever is making this playful time, than go somewhere else.
Happiness is in our hearts; make somebody else happy and you will be happy too!