It’s tough to watch teenagers grow. They’re no longer at an age when you can keep an eye on them every minute and they have to make a lot of choices for themselves. Some of those choices may eventually bring them into contact with the police — and your teen needs to know what to do if that happens to keep what could be a relatively benign event from turning tragic.

Here are some suggestions about what to tell your kids about police interactions:

1. Don’t hide the truth about troubling issues.

You certainly want your teens to respect the authority of the police — but you also want them to understand that not all officers take their duty “to serve and protect” to heart. Teenagers of color, in particular, need to realize that conscious and unconscious biases held by an officer can make their interactions more dangerous.

2. Let them know that youth isn’t a protection.

These days, youthful mistakes can be treated very harshly. However, a lot of teens firmly believe that youth gives them a pass with the authorities — until they’re actually in the situation. In the heat of the moment, they may even be perceived as an adult.

3. Explain when they should call for assistance.

Teenagers sometimes overshare information, especially with adults in authority. Teach your teens that they should limit their conversation with the police to their identification only. If the conversation goes any further, teach your teens to say, “I’d like to call my parents and a lawyer before I talk any more.”

A juvenile delinquency charge can be deeply damaging to your child’s future. Find out more about what it takes to mount a successful defense.