Monthly Archives: January 2012

Parenting 101

December 2011

1. We found marijuana in our 16yo son’s bedroom (this is the 2nd time) – and we’ve grounded him and taken away all his privileges. However, while I don’t want him to feel left out of holiday activities, at the same time I’m so mad at him I can hardly talk to him. How can I manage this better?

Your son’s having brought Marijuana into your house and kept it there a second time after being caught previously is a very strong statement about the intensity of his relationship with that drug and the attendant loss of respect for family values and boundaries that attends drug problems. Some parents feel that Marijuana use is “just part of adolescence,” while others find it a wakeup call that your son needs help/guidance to deal with life without the use of an hallucinogen. Grounding and loss of privileges is appropriate, however, it is not in and of itself a solution to the problem.
It is definitely time to seek help for his problem (continued use despite negative consequences is a clear indicator that he has a drug problem). We urge you to seek an assessment at a chemical dependency program specializing in adolescents as quickly as possible. Make sure that the program has a strong family component. You’re right on target to be considering your anger. Although completely understandable, your anger will not help your son recover from a drug problem. A good family program can help teach you how to support recovery and hold boundaries against drug use effectively. We would not banish your son from family holiday activities, but holiday activities with friends are not necessary given the poor decision making process he has exhibited.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue, or feel you can contain it by a ‘”slap on the hand.” This approach rarely properly addresses the issue. Even if you are a parent who believes Marijuana is harmless, remember this is a child who doesn’t have the maturity to understand the concept of moderation or ‘responsible’ use of anything.

2. We found out that our 15yo daughter’s best friend is posting provocative pictures of herself on Facebook. Our daughter says she hasn’t done this and we’ve checked her page and found nothing. Should we tell her friends parents or mind our own business? We’ve known this girl for several years and are concerned about her reputation as well as her influence on our daughter, (who is freaking out at the thought that we will contact her friend’s parents).

As parents we have a responsibility to protect our own children. But what about other people’s children? While it is totally your option of whether to tell the other parents or not, we suggest you use the guideline of the reverse. If another parent comes to know about something that might be a danger to your daughter (provocative pictures on the Internet, drug and alcohol use, riding bikes in traffic without helmets, etc) would you want to be informed? If the answer is yes, then it makes sense that you help out another parent and provide them with the information you have. Do not add any judgment or criticism, not even your opinion, just the facts as you know them. Then leave it up to the other parent to follow through. Their reaction or how they handle it may vary widely and unpredictably, know that you are not in charge of that, only of giving them the information they need to have. Also, be aware that it is very common for teens to keep at least two facebook pages, one that they “friend” their parents on (so their parents will let them use facebook ) and another on which they really interact with their friends. Too many young people believe that their postings on any social media site is a private event and is restricted to only their friends. They are unable to comprehend that ‘anything and everything’ sent via any social media venue is available to the world. Because you have spent your life protecting your children (as you should) they also are not able to comprehend that human behavior can be very ugly. We know that every social media contains “predators,” but teens feel invulnerable to anyone outside their circle of friends. Checking browser history to see what facebook pages have been visited is extremely important. Indeed, your daughter will be upset if you contact her friend’s parents. However, this will send a very clear message to your daughter that there are some behaviors that are never acceptable and require intervention, which hopefully discourages her from ever considering doing the same in the future. This is a textbook example of the choice that every parent of a teen has to make over and over again: Am I my teen’s parent or friend? Those roles are mutually exclusive. Please be her parent, at 15 she desperately needs that. Being a good parent of a teen means they will often not like your decisions, love her enough to make the right one anyway.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

Parenting 101

November 2011

1. My 6th grade daughter wants to “go out” with a boy in her school, but I think she’s too young. However, I don’t want her to feel she has to sneak around. I’m just not sure how to handle this.

While there are always exceptions, most 6th graders do not go out on ‘exclusive’ dates. For one, they do not have their own transportation, or the maturity to know what behavior is acceptable. Most boys and girls of that age meet at the mall, movies or beach with a group of friends. Typically, she would go with her friends, and he with his. The two groups meet and the ‘couple’ interact together while all the others watch and usually make non-serious conversations. However, it is not appropriate to leave them on their own.

By 8th grade there are a few who are taken by their parents or older sibling to the movies or a concert (some public place). They are usually dropped off and picked up when the venue is over. But at your daughter’s age, tell her you would be happy to have the boy over to your house, where they could spend time, but not alone or behind closed doors. They can have the living room to themselves while you are nearby and can walk in at any time. They can be invited along to sports events or family outings. Provide your daughter with as many options as possible, but tell her the rules are that they are not permitted to be alone or behind closed doors for everyone’s’ best interest. The idea is that as part of any child’s natural development, they need to learn appropriate behavior with the opposite sex. The concept of giving children freedoms that are not appropriate to their age simply so they will not “rebel” or “sneak” gives away parental power and assumes the worst of a child’s character. Set appropriate boundaries, know it is your right to do so and expect your child to live up to them (children often do live up to expectations).

2. Sometimes my 14yo son doesn’t seem to have any control over his actions or emotions. He makes poor decisions and I’m not sure I get through to him when we talk about long-term consequences. I’m worried that this isn’t just a phase, that it’s possibly a character flaw that could spell real problems for him down the road. Any advice/suggestions will be welcome. Thank you.

Brain studies for pre-teen and teens show clearly that the prefrontal cortex, which controls all impulsive behaviors, is not nearly fully developed. It is not unusual for that part of the brain to not reach full maturity until the early twenties. In individuals with attention deficit disorder, the prefrontal cortex is especially underdeveloped. This is a big contributor to what makes disciplining teens so difficult. Your best bet is to have consistent and firm consequences for poor decisions. Make sure that you explain that everyone makes mistakes and the consequences are there as a reminder to make good choices. Use the example of a parking meter. If you choose to ignore the law and not pay for parking your car, you will get a reminder ticket as a consequence. Getting a parking ticket has nothing to do with what kind of person you are, they are simply a way of reminding people to do what they are supposed to do.

The amount of a parent’s “parking ticket” should not be too little, nor too great, otherwise, chances are it will be ignored or rebelled against.

While more information about what your son’s lack of control and poor decisions would be needed to give you more specific advice, the fact that they have caused you concern is reason enough to reach out for some help. We would suggest a short consultation with a licensed therapist, who specializes in adolescents, to determine if there are further needs in addressing your son’s behavior.

Responses to the above parent questions 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 or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact:

38 Million American Adults are Binge Drinkers, CDC Says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 38 million American adults are binge drinkers, and most of them are ages 18 to 34. In a new report, the CDC says that while binge drinking is more common among young adults, those age 65 and older who binge drink do so more often—an average of five to six times a month.

Binge drinking is defined as men who have five or more drinks in one sitting, and women who have four or more drinks at one time, HealthDay reports.

Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States, and accounts for about three-fourths of the more than $200 billion in costs from alcohol abuse, according to the CDC.

“Binge drinking causes a wide range of health, social and economic problems and this report confirms the problem is really widespread,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said in a news release. “We need to work together to implement proven measures to reduce binge drinking at national, state and community levels.”

The CDC found binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more. However, binge drinkers with household incomes of less than $25,000 have the largest number of drinks per sitting—an average of eight to nine drinks.


Liability Laws Make Parents Responsible for Underage Drinking in Their Home

Parents who allow their teens to have friends over to drink, thinking it’s a safe way to keep them off the roads, may be surprised to find they are subject to liability laws that make them vulnerable to lawsuits, fines and jail time.

Parents in some states can be liable even if they were not aware that drinking was going on in their home, according to the Associated Press. One Stanford University professor was arrested in November after his 17-year-old son had a party in the basement. The professor, Bill Burnett, said he had forbidden alcohol at the party and had twice checked on the teens. He spent one night in jail and was booked on 44 counts of suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Each count carries up to a $2,500 fine and almost a year in jail.

Eight states have “social host” laws that make parents liable if underage guests in their home are drinking, even if no harm comes to anyone, the AP reports. In some of the states, parents are allowed to serve alcohol to their own children in certain situations.

In 16 other states, laws hold parents responsible for underage drinking in some circumstances, such as if a teenager who drank in their home was in a car accident.

Research conducted by Students Against Destructive Decisions, and co-sponsored by the insurance company Liberty Mutual, found 41 percent of teens say their parents allow them to go to parties where alcohol is being served, compared with 36 percent two years ago.