Dorothy Parker said, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

This is a nice statement if you want people to snap out of their comfort zones and become amazed by the world around them.

This is not a good statement for teenagers.

When you are in a state of in-between…..a place where you are not really a child and not yet an adult, you are curious about a lot of things.   You want answers.  You want to rush into adulthood, because that is where you assume there will be freedom and cool experiences and true love and unlimited financial opportunities and answers to all of your questions.

A small child learns pretty early that the grown-ups rule the world.  We make the rules, we have the money, we control everything.  We seem to know everything and have access to anything.  Children do their best to be like adults, to assert their independence and personalities – rushing towards the seemingly amazing life we have as adults.

When a child gets to the teen years, they may fill in the blanks of their knowledge with assumptions.  They figure that if they fake knowledge, they will be even closer to
adulthood.  In my last blog post, I explained that we need to remind teenagers that they don’t know everything, they only know what they know.

And sometimes, they don’t even know that much.

When teenagers have gaps in their knowledge, they become curious.  They figure the best thing to do is satisfy their curiosity through direct experience.  They figure that if they try it “just once”, they will have the answer.  And having answers is good, right?  It makes me more adult, right?

Not necessarily.

When young people are curious about drinking, drugs, sex, smoking, committing illegal acts, doing risky stunts or other potentially harmful activities, trying something “just once” can have some serious, life-changing or even deadly consequences.

Knowing this, what can we do?

Educate.

First, face the fact that teens will be curious about everything in the adult world.  Then it is up to you to figure out the best way to give them all of the information up front.  Not by experiencing it, but by talking about it.  Explain what happens to the body when you drink alcohol and how alcohol poisoning occurs.  Take them to a community health center to learn about pregnancy, birth control and sexually transmitted infections.  Go to presentations on drugs and their effects.  Point out young people who took careless risks and paid dearly for them – with their health, mobility, cognitive ability or even their lives.

Let your teen know that it is okay to be curious about things….it is totally natural to wonder “what it would be like if…..?”.

Tell them that “just because you are curious about something doesn’t mean you have to try it.  Figure out what you are wondering about then go learn from others who have tried it.  Some may have positive stories, some may have negative stories.  Either way, you will have your answer”.

Learning from others’ mistakes.

Seems like a pretty adult thing to do.

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