Proms, Graduation Parties and Death Notifications

It’s spring, beautiful spring.  And it’s a time of big milestones in teenage lives, like proms and graduations.  And even if there isn’t something really big to celebrate, there are sometimes teenage parties just to celebrate the end of another school year. 

For kids, a fun time.  For parents, a time when lots of decisions have to be made, balancing “I want my child to have fun and be popular” with “I don’t want my child doing something that could end or tragically alter his or someone else’s life.”

I hope you don’t mind if I share some of the experience from “the other end of the tunnel.”  Because we’ve “been there, done that” and because of Hubby’s job, I thought some of the things we’ve learned might be helpful to you who are parenting teenagers.  I hope it’s all stuff you’ve already thought about, but if not, I hope it will be helpful.

For fifteen years, Hubby was the Lieutenant of the third shift road patrol of the county police department.  Because the majority of fatal accidents happen during the nighttime hours, for those 15 years he was the primary person who made death notifications to the families of people killed in car accidents in our county.  It, obviously, wasn’t something he looked forward to doing, but, by necessity, he became very good at it. 

And always, at this time of year, a higher number than usual of those notifications were to parents of teenagers.  The stories Hubby would tell me were always heartbreaking, like the couple he told their daughter had been killed and then they asked him, what about their son?  He then realized that the boy in the car with the girl who didn’t have any identification on him — had been her brother.  The notification he was making was suddenly a double tragedy for the parents.  

Probably the most memorable tragedy Hubby encountered was when he went to notify a couple that their son had been killed in an accident, and they told him that the boy’s two older siblings had both died in car accidents too.  The couple now had no living children.  I can’t imagine the heartache of losing a child in an accident, much less all of your children.

We were co-leaders of the high school bible class at our church when DD was in high school.  I remember the other co-leaders, who were both teachers, doing a great job of leading a discussion with the class about decision making.  They told the class in regard to sex, “The time to make the decision about how far you are going to go isn’t when you’re in the back seat of a car.  You need to think about what you would do in a situation like that beforehand, so that in the “heat of the moment” you already know what you will and won’t do.”  I thought that was such good advice, and, of course, that advice can be applied to all the tricky decisions that teens have to make, including drinking and driving.

 I remember one time when Hubby was speaking to a group of parents about drugs.  He said, “Do not let your child tell you that you aren’t allowed in their room.  If children were capable of making good decisions on their own, God wouldn’t have given them parents.”  Children are learning to make decisions, and they need their parents’ guidance, even if they don’t know it (or like it).

So, it just seemed like a good time to remind parents of teenagers (who probably don’t really need to be reminded) that you’re going into a tough time of the year, when you surely will be hit with more “can I’s” that usual.  And, share that advice our co-leaders gave to the bible class that might work pretty well for you too, i.e., don’t wait until you kids ask the questions about driving and parties and the “but all the other kids are going” events.  Best to think about what you’ll say before you’re asked — so that you’ll already have an answer.

May God bless and guide all of you who are in the parenting phase of your life, especially with teenagers.  I remember it as a stressful time, with lots of gray areas.  I believe it is the most important yet hardest job you will ever have (and, sometimes, the most thankless), but, I imagine you will agree, parenting is still ultimately the most rewarding experience in life!

6 Responses to Proms, Graduation Parties and Death Notifications

  1. Linda says:

    Great post … and timely.

  2. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Linda.

  3. tz says:

    It’s official, my children are going to stay 8 and 5 FOREVER!

  4. Sandra says:

    tz — You seem to have great instincts in general, and a close relationship with your children — I’m sure you’ll do fine with teenagers.

  5. Excellent advice. As a parent of young teen, I appreciate any advice you can offer, any time!

  6. Sandra says:

    HPKT – I’m glad if anything I wrote helps or reinforces decisions you have to make, but I’m betting you’re getting your best “guidance” from your experience teaching the teens you do.

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