When you have a suspicion that your teen is “experimenting” with drugs, what do you do?
First, learn as much as you can. Sign up for TheAntiDrug Parenting Tips Newsletter or visit www.Freevibe.com for information and scientific evident on alcohol and other drug use by teens. Or, call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) for free pamphlets and fact sheets. They can be reached at 1-800-788-2800 or visit their web site at http://www.health.org.
Have The Talk – Let Them Know You Know
The next thing you can do is sit down and talk with your child. Be sure to have the conversation when you are all calm and have plenty of time. This isn’t an easy task – your feelings may range from anger to guilt that you “failed” because your kid is using drugs. This isn’t true – by staying involved you can help him/her stop using and make choices that will make a positive difference in his/her life.
Be Specific About Your Concerns
Tell your child what you see and how you feel about it. Be specific about the things you have observed that cause concern. Make it known if you found drug paraphernalia (or empty bottles or cans). Explain exactly how his/her behavior or appearance (bloodshot eyes, different clothing) has changed and why that worries you. Tell him/her that alcohol or other drug use is dangerous and it’s your job to keep him/her away from things that put him/her in danger.
Don’t Make Excuses
Although it’s natural for parents to make excuses for their child, you’re not helping him/her if you make excuses when he/she misses school or family functions when you suspect something else is at play. Take the next step. Talk to your child and get more information.
Try To Remain Calm And Connect With Him/Her
Have this discussion without getting mad or accusing your child of being stupid or bad or an embarrassment to the family. Be firm but loving with your tone and try not to get hooked into an argument. Knowing that kids are naturally private about their lives, try to find out what’s going on in your child’s life. Try not to make the discussion an inquisition; simply try to connect with your teen and find out why he/she may be making bad choices. Find out if friends or others offered your child drugs at a party or at school. Did he/she try it just out of curiosity, or did he/she use marijuana or alcohol for some other reason? That alone will be a signal to your child that you care and that you are going to be the parent exercising your rights.
Be Prepared. Practice What You’ll Say
Be prepared for your teen to deny using drugs. Don’t expect him/her to admit he/she has a problem. Your child will probably get angry and might try to change the subject. Maybe you’ll be confronted with questions about what you did as a kid. If you are asked, it is best to be honest, and if you can, connect your use to negative consequences. Answering deceptively can cause you to lose credibility with your kids if they ever find out that you’ve lied to them. On the other hand, if you don’t feel comfortable answering the question, you can talk about some specific people you know that have had negative things happen to them as a result of alcohol and other drug use. However, if the time comes to talk about it, you can give short, honest answers like these:
“When I was a kid I took drugs because of my friends did. I did it in order to fit in. If I’d know then about the consequences and how they affect my life, I never would’ve tried drugs. I’ll do everything I can to help keep you away from them.”
“I drank alcohol and smoked marijuana because I was bored and wanted to take some risks, but I soon found out that I couldn’t control the risks – the loss of trust of my parents and friends. There are much better ways of challenging yourself than doing drugs.”
You can begin to more closely monitor your child’s activities. Have a few conversations. Ask: Who? What? Where? When? Reflect with your child on why he/she is using drugs and try to understand the reasons why so that you can help solve the problem. When you get a better idea of the situation, then you can decide next steps. These could include setting new rules and consequences that are reasonable and enforceable – such as a new curfew, no cell phone or computer privileges for a period of time, or less time hanging out with friends. You may want to get them involved in pro-social activities that will keep them busy and help them meet new people.