DR. WALLACE: Will my parents still love me if I make a really big mistake? I'm starting to realize that I'm prone to making some poor decisions. Fortunately, my mistakes have been small to medium thus far, and nothing has caused my life to be impacted too much. I'm 16, and my parents lecture me a lot about a variety of topics, but I can kind of tell they do this because they are worried about me and don't want me to make a big mistake.
I try not to do really bad things, but I worry that if I make a big mistake someday, my parents might abandon me. — Worried, via email
WORRIED: The good news is that your parents care about you greatly, as evidenced by their ongoing oversight of your activities and their warnings to avoid certain things that could harm you in one way or another. Their behavior is consistent with unconditional love, which is the greatest gift a parent, or set of parents, can give to a child.
I trust your parents will have your back no matter what, based upon the few facts you have shared here in your letter. Now, for your part, your job is to concentrate on avoiding the really big mistakes in life that can sometimes occur. A good rule of thumb is to think very carefully over any big decision or rash, spur of the moment decision that you come across. Be very careful of peer pressure. Do not do anything simply because others your age, or near your age, are doing it. Think about how your parents, family and close family friends would react BEFORE you do anything you know, deep down, they would disapprove of.
I am absolutely not saying to act like a robot programmed entirely by your parents, but I am saying to be aware of anything that might be a bad idea before you act upon it. The key is to not be spontaneous in taking risks. Do not make dangerous decisions or take substances that impair your judgment, like drugs and alcohol.
Obviously, avoiding drugs and alcohol is important to any teenager, but there are many other bad decisions out there that can be avoided by taking the time to think through actions in advance. A great rule is to think carefully for 30 full seconds about any potential action that causes a twinge of concern. Think quite carefully, for hours or even days, about any larger life decisions, and finally, don't forget that your parents are rooting for your success more than nearly anyone else on earth. Keep an open dialogue with them about your life and major life decisions. You will not always agree with them, but the exchange of ideas and perspectives brings mutual benefits and will absolutely keep strengthening that unconditional love.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.