1. Our 14yo son admitted to smoking pot once – he seems genuinely remorseful and swears it won’t happen again but I’m not sure where we go from here. Should we ground him, drug test him, or what? Advice?
Good for you for taking this seriously! While there certainly are some young people who try pot once and do not like it, there are far more that tell their parents what they think they want to know to avoid getting caught. Without some specific information it is difficult to tell you whether to ground him or not, but two good general guidelines to go by are 1) to honor any consequence he was told there would be before hand and 2) to know that to effectively ground your child, you have to ground yourself also. It is important to discuss with him the circumstances around his use so that you can help him avoid the factors that led to that poor decision.
Drug testing is absolutely appropriate and warranted. It serves the purpose of giving you some objective data regarding his drug free status, but perhaps more importantly it gives him an extra reason to say “no” next time the opportunity to smoke pot arises. Knowing he may be held accountable can be a powerful tool to help him make good decisions. For testing to be meaningful it needs to be done randomly, and frequently for awhile. If cause for suspicion is given, testing should be done by a reputable facility, under observation, and he needs not to know when it will be done (this is one test you do not want him studying to pass!).
Also make sure to keep his attitude and beliefs about Marijuana an open topic of discussion between you and him. He is at an age when attitudes and beliefs can change drastically and quickly. Try to learn how he forms his views and take the opportunity to both teach specific information about Marijuana and to teach about decision making.
It is a known fact that children do such a good job of covering their tracks while using drugs that the average parent learns about their child’s serious drug problem about a year after it starts. Knowing this, it is difficult to take the risk of not being pro-active. Being pro-active is a far cry from being over reactive. An over reactive parent will begin spying on their child and make all kinds of unreasonable restrictions that are not predicated on things their child did, but on what they think the child is doing. A pro-active parent begins paying closer attention to where their child spends their spare time, who they hang with, their attitude towards themselves and others, and takes note to see if anything adds up to possible personality change.
2. My husband and I met in AA more than 15 years ago and have been clean and sober ever since. Our kids are 9 & 10 and I’m afraid their questions about whether we’ve ever used alcohol and drugs are just around the corner. When they ask, how honest should we be?
Congratulations on your and your husband’s recovery successes! Your question is a common challenge for many parents. When dealing with your children’s questions it is important to remember that honest and open are two different qualities. There is never a legitimate reason to be dishonest with your child; and real and long lasting damage can come from even seemingly harmless amounts of lying. There is, however, no requirement for complete openness or graphic description. Children can also be harmed by graphic disclosure that is neither age nor relationship appropriate. The best approach is to explain to them that you did make mistakes as a youth, and offer to share with them what you learned from these experiences. When it comes to the specific details of the things you did, explain to them that the greatest value for you is the knowledge you gained from learning to make the right decisions, and one of the most helpful things you learned was to leave the bad memories in the past. It is not only o.k. but healthy to keep the detailed description of “what it was like” limited. Where exactly to draw the line is certainly a subjective and tricky field to negotiate and you may find benefit in speaking to other recovering parents about their experiences or seeking some targeted guidance from an appropriate professional.
It will be very important that your children understand the disease concept and their own increased risk for a chemical dependency due to genetics. It is important that they understand that you and your husband are very fortunate to be clean and sober and leading productive lives and that most people who fall into the clutches of alcohol and other drugs do not escape.
And through it all remember that you are their parent not their friend (these are mutually exclusive roles) and that it is absolutely all right to strive to not have your children repeat your mistakes. Never let the “You can’t discipline me for it because you did it” argument hold any water, it doesn’t.
The questions above are from parents who live in the South Bay. The responses have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website www.thefutureiswatching.org or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org