Teenagers can be so moody, and you never know what’s going to set them off. Asking about their day could just as easily elicit an excited retelling of being asked to a school dance as a sigh, eye roll, and mumbled, “fine.”
It can be difficult to talk to your teen about anything. They think they have everything figured out and they don’t need you to nag them anymore.
But you and I both know that they do need you to look out for them and help them navigate the process of growing up.
One conversation that can be difficult to have with teens is what to do if they ever have an encounter with the police. Many teens won’t be receptive to this type of conversation, and it can be hard to know if you’ve really gotten through to them. Here are some tips to try to help you have a productive conversation with your teen about encounters with the police.
Laying the Groundwork
First of all, know that just having the conversation is a step in the right direction. Taking the time to talk to your children will show them that you care. Even if they seem to ignore you, if they ever do have an interaction with the police, they will have some advice to fall back on.
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. Ideally, you shouldn’t start talking to your teenager about the police when they’re 16. To be most effective, this is something that you should talk to children about over time.
Take interactions with the police as opportunities to talk to your children. If you are ever unfortunate enough to be pulled over with your children in the car, you can make the most of the situation. Lead by example and show them the correct way to interact with the police. Be polite, keep your hands where the police can see them, and comply with what the officer says. Afterwards, you can explain to your children what you did and why. This will show them what to do if they are ever in a similar situation.
The second best time to plant a tree is today. Even if you didn’t start talking to your kids about the police early on in their lives, you can still make a difference by talking to them now. Don’t think it’s too late to have that conversation.
Sit your child down and explain to them that you understand the temptation to engage in certain behaviors (drinking, trespassing, speeding, drug use, etc.). Make sure that they know that you do not condone this behavior.
But, if they ever face an issue with the police, they need to know how to handle it. You need to tell them to:
- Be respectful – avoid aggressive or condescending behavior.
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t try to hide evidence or run away.
- Do what the officer says.
- Invoke their right to silence and not say anything incriminating.
- Don’t make sudden movements.
Even if you can’t show your teen how you’ve interacted with the police in the past, you can still draw from those experiences. You can tell your child what you’ve done in the past when you’ve had an incident with the police.
Make sure to answer any questions that your teenager has about the police and what happens if they get into any trouble. Also let your child know that if they ever have additional questions, you are available to discuss them. Your talk about the police should not be one isolated event, but something that you check in with your kids about occasionally.
Having an open and honest conversation can make a difference if your child ever finds themselves in a compromising situation.