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Raising Teens in Today’s World

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children.” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Perhaps? John Steinbeck must not have actually had children. If he had, he would have known that it absolutely and unequivocally takes courage – and large doses of it – to raise children, especially in today’s world!

I am the parent of not one, but three teenagers, and they test my courage (and patience, and sanity, etc.) daily. I often find myself longing for the care-free days of their childhood when the most I had to worry about was spelling test grades, or getting to ballet class on time, or whether or not they still believed in Santa Claus.

Now, what keeps me awake at night, what tests my courage, are much bigger issues:

Will that party after the dance get out of hand?

Will they drink and drive?

Will they do something thoughtless that changes their life forever, something they can’t take back?

We all know the stories. We hear about tragic, heart-breaking accidents, and we pray that it does not happen to our children. We read about idiotic, senseless acts with serious consequences, and we hope that our kids are smarter.

If only we could inoculate them against their invincible attitudes, foolish choices, and the dangers lurking between childhood and adulthood. Until scientists develop a vaccination for stupidity and immaturity, I am arming my children and myself with information.

Ignorance is No Defense

The book, Ignorance is No Defense by former Dekalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan is one of the best resources our family has found. My parents, who are obviously still scarred by my own teenage years, bequeathed a copy to us while our kids were still in diapers! It collected dust on a shelf until the glorious day when our daughter passed her driver’s test. Now, it is dog-eared and has replaced Martha Stewart’s Entertaining book on our coffee table.

Mr. Morgan has an enlightened perspective as a former prosecutor and now as a private attorney defending teens who are in trouble with the law. The stories he shared during a recent conversation with parents at Mount de Sales were sobering (pun intended!). If parents are home while their children are having a party and alcohol is present, the police can arrest the teens and parents. It has happened right here in Macon! Furthermore, if your child is at one of these parties and has not been drinking, Mr. Morgan recommends they ask for an Alco-Sensor so as not to be carted off to jail. Adults should take the keys and call the parents of any child they find to be drinking at their home.

I was stunned to learn that eighth grade girls are the teens most likely to be “sexting!” It is, in fact, a felony to possess or to post sexually explicit pictures or videos of anyone under the age of 18; Georgia law considers this action distribution of child pornography. That charge will follow your child for a very long time. Furthermore, kids, especially those in private school, are increasingly becoming more addicted to Adderall and Ritalin as they try to cope with stress and high expectations for success; possession of these medications without a prescription is also a felony.

Our new drivers who are so anxious to cart their friends around should also take note. They can receive a ticket for every passenger that violates Georgia law and could lose their license for six months. Oh, and parents can be charged as well. Plus, our insurance rates will likely climb by a mere 300%! There is so much more, so check out Mr. Morgan’s website and book at

Take Courage!

Educating our children and ourselves is important, but perhaps as parents, we also need courage as we raise our children and especially teens. Perhaps we need courage to ask tough questions. Perhaps we need courage not to look the other way. Perhaps we need courage to fight the battle when our children demand more freedom than they can handle.

Perhaps one thing is for certain: John Steinbeck clearly wrote fiction!

By Laura J. Schofield, MDS Parent and Director of Institutional Advancement