One of the most saddening happenstance of my job comes when I meet with parents who have been recently devastated by the loss of a child. To suddenly lose a child who only moments before had been the sparkling center of a parent’s hopes and dreams is a life blow from which one never really recovers.
I have three teenage daughters, all who fortunately are beauties like their momma, all who have good sense, and all who have bright futures. I trust them because they have earned my trust over the years.
Yet teenagers believe they are invulnerable. Teenagers often see only what the moment holds. Teenagers are curious, and adventure often comes with little restraint being exercised.
As a lawyer handling wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, I see the consequences of teenager frolic. When a group of teens get together with adventure in mind: the giggling, the carousing, the one up man’s ship, the daring to do what others think you won’t — it can lead to disaster. A little bit of alcohol thrown in, or even just that moment of inattention to the road when she looks into the back seat to see what the ruckus is back there, while she drifts across the center line in the road. And then the world is suddenly changed. Even in a relatively safe places, like Joplin, Missouri, Northwest Arkansas, and Branson, Missouri, opportunities abound for a child to exercise poor judgment.
Teenagers driving with a group in the car presents about the highest risk of violent collisions. That is why insurance rates are so high for teens.
As a parent it is hard to balance letting the teenager loose to discover who she is with holding her back just a bit into a safety net. From my experience, however, as both a parent and as a lawyer exclusively handling personal injury claims, here are some of my simple, common sense suggestions:
- 1. Make sure the child knows that trust can be violated and lost when she exercises poor judgment and puts herself and others at risk.
- 2. Make sure your teenager knows that choices have consequences that can affect her and others forever.
- 3. Make sure the teen driver knows not to drive impaired or to ride with others who are. Texting while driving is driving impaired.
- 4. Make sure that even the most trustworthy teenager keeps you aware of where she is and who she is with. A parent staying in the loop helps give the teenager an excuse to say no if she really doesn’t want to do what she is being urged to do.
Even great kids with solid character make mistakes. Sometimes disaster strikes because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, even when they have done everything right. As parents, all we can do is try to minimize the risk that growing up and going through the ordinary rites of passage into adulthood brings.
With cell phones and the instant ability to communicate, we live in a smaller world today. We have a better chance of knowing where are children are and exercising some restraints. Reining in the adventure a little and saving some of the mysteries of life for the adult experience is hard to do but can at times make a difference in a life of many moments of joy rather than one of never ending emptiness.