Parenting 101

May 2012

1. My 16 year old daughter was at a friend’s house and had a pretty bad headache so her friend’s mother gave her ½ Vicodin which really bothers me. My daughter is begging me not to contact her friend’s mom. How best to handle this?

You absolutely need to contact your daughter’s friend’s mom. You would also do well by setting a firm boundary that your daughter is never to be in a situation where this woman is the sole adult caretaker present. Illegally distributing narcotics (and make no mistake Vicodin is a strong narcotic) to minors is an extremely serious matter, one in which you would be well within your rights to involve the police. Regardless of whether the mother that gave her the medications is completely unaware that she just acted as a ‘dealer’ of illegal drugs, or whether she understands and doesn’t have any regard for the laws – she is acting irresponsibly and needs to be informed before she either gets into trouble with the law, or inadvertently contributes to illegal drug use by minors. Both would send her to jail. Yes, as a teenager, your daughter is likely to be embarrassed and want to avoid dealing with the issue, but to send any other message than that this is an extremely serious matter would be gravely irresponsible parenting. Prescription drugs, in particular opiates (of which Vicodin is one) have become one of the leading causes of addiction and overdose in this nation, in large part due to society’s tendency to view them as safer than street drugs. Deaths from overdoses of prescription opiates happen nearly six times as often as those from Heroin, and from 1997 to 2007 the number of opiates prescribed increased over 400%. The Center for Disease Control has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. Your daughter needs to be clear that prescription drugs are extremely dangerous as this will unfortunately not be her last opportunity to take them illegally. Problems that are not addressed only grow, address this one strongly. Here is a great resource page for more information: http://ncadd.org.

2. Our daughter is leaving for college this year. Both her father and I have been in recovery for many years and we’re not sure what to say to prepare her for her first real taste of freedom and the drinking that may go along with that. And is it possible for us to monitor her behavior when we’ll be so far away?
If you and your husband are both in recovery from chemical dependency, it would certainly be time to talk with your daughter about her substantially increased risk of dependence if she indulges in mind altering substances. Your daughter is old enough now for you to share with her your struggles with recovery (always be honest, but it is not necessary to go into details, and it would be helpful for her to know that neither one of you ever thought your choices would wind up in a lifetime change). It may be especially helpful for your daughter to hear that her parents are ‘not perfect’ individuals that you have challenges like everyone else. This is a good time to reiterate that her freedoms are only restricted by the choices she makes when she is on her own. It is your responsibility to make sure that she is aware of the dangers and to help her plan for her own safety, but make sure listening is as much a part of the interaction as talking. By this age, she most likely has already had to make many decisions surrounding substance use and her thoughts, beliefs and mindset will be the most influential factors in the decisions she makes while off at college. Unless she has already made dangerous decisions regarding substances, direct monitoring would be not only extremely difficult and unreliable, but counterproductive to her continued growth and maturity and most certainly her relationship with you. Visit her if possible, talk by phone frequently (texting or e-mailing is not the same when it comes to knowing someone is o.k.), make sure any expenses being paid by you track closely with a pre- determined budget and keep a dialogue open about her academic progress and the new life experiences she has. Care and love deeply, but know that you cannot control her, only your contribution to her process.

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 www.thefutureiswatching.org or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact: events@sbcoalition.com.