Keeping Your Teen Safe…Without Using a Leash

Reluctantly, I admit, I was one of those moms that tried the leash, for one day, in the mall.  It didn't work.

They were just like dogs constantly getting hung up on each other and wrapping themselves around obstacles.

Now that they are teenagers, I wish I could try the leash thing out again.

As long as they could still check Instagram and twitter they probably wouldn't even notice, you think? I suppose that's against their rights this day in age anyway.

So, I have had to improvise with a more realistic approach. I talk to them.

Impromptu conversations with our teenagers are more important than we think.

Full moon, first snowstorm or first hint of warm weather after a long winter, Spring break, Christmas break— any break: These are all times when, as nurses or healthcare professionals, we know our expertise in emergency care will be challenged.

If the average person heard us talk about it they would think we were crazy and heartless.  I like to think we are just very realistic.

It's going to happen.  We will receive multiple injured patients, at all different times of the day, from all kinds of mechanisms such as car crashes, ATV rollovers, golf cart mishaps, and daredevil acts like riding on the hood of a car through a parking lot.  Sounded fun at the time I'm sure. . .

But, what isn't fun is having to call the parents of one of these injured patients to notify them that their son or daughter is severely injured and that they need to come to the hospital as soon as possible.

So many times, the response is, "I didn't even know they were going to be riding an ATV", or "Who was driving the car?  I don't even know who that is!"

That's what I want parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else reading this post to learn from my experiences as a nurse.

It can happen to anyone and there are things we can do that may just prevent a tragedy like this from happening. Simple stuff, like sharing the mistakes you have made in the past and the consequences you have endured.

Even stories that didn't end tragically but, when you think back to that specific decision that you made, you feel the need to drop to your knees and thank God. Thank God because you know now the possible life altering consequences that some of your past mistakes could have caused.

The common belief that, “It would never happen to my family” can quickly change to the reality of, “I can’t believe it happened to my family.”

Still, I get parents snickering at me when I mention the dangers that teenagers face.  I admit, if I wasn't a nurse with experience in ER and trauma nursing, I wouldn’t understand completely the possible tragedies that can happen.

But, I would like to think that if someone that was keenly aware of these tragedies pointed out to me the magnitude and horror that is possible, I would make sure I did whatever I could as a mother to keep them from happening to my teenager.

Well here it is. I’m pointing it out because I have seen families destroyed as I have taken care of those patients: multiple times, multiple stories, multiple endings.

Death or disability of these kids is, of course, forever devastating, life changing, and unimaginable to most.

And, sometimes no matter what you do to prepare your teenager and prevent bad things from happening to them, things still happen. But isn’t it our responsibility to do WHATEVER we can?

My  twin daughters and my bonus daughter are in high school now. All I can do is prepare them. The best way to do that is to take advantage of any teachable moment that I have with them.


I find myself showing them Facebook posts of girls that had been taken advantage of at parties and the horrible results of drinking or texting while driving.

I have used several road rage events we've witnessed to make them aware of their surroundings to help prepare them for the day that they are driving on their own and find themselves in a similar situation.

And, since they were young, I've had no problem sharing the stories of my patients with them.  I wouldn't share necessarily the gruesome details and would never share identifying information (for those of you that are already thinking about the HIPPA laws!), but, I would let them know about what mommy did all day at work and how sad it made me.

Decisions we all make come with bitter consequences at times.

I don't let them dive in any body of water where I don't know the depth, and they understand why.  I don't let them go to a friend's house to ride 4-wheelers unless I am comfortable with the situation , and they know why.  And, although not happy about it, they know that they will never go on a spring break vacation with their friends alone, and they UNDERSTAND and know why.

It's been difficult for me, emotionally, to give them the space they need to make decisions and experience life.  I am definitely not a helicopter mom but I am also very aware of where the girls are and who they are with.  Or, let me rephrase that, I have made the attempts to know all of these things.

I'm realistic to know that they will try and do things that I may not approve. My hope is that I have taught them along the way about the possible consequences that can exist and ultimately that they are not "untouchable' from tragedy.

I think back to the many stupid things I have done in the past and use them as teachable moments.  Some, I have shared with my girls as they have become relevant in their lives. Some, I think would just be best left unsaid for now, but not necessarily forever.

Needless to say, it has been humbling.

However, I believe that when teenagers know you are being straight up and honest with them, it strengthens the bond between you.

When they know you are rehashing situations from your past that are definitely not comfortable for you to discuss, they appreciate your attempts to do everything you can do to empower them to conquer the world.

And with your guidance, they can.

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