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:

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