Parenting 101

June 2012

1.   My son just started driving and I want to create a contract that clearly defines our expectations as well as punishment for infractions.  What points should I be sure to include in the contract?

The contract should begin by stating that driving is a ‘privilege’ and not a right.  The privilege, for all drivers, is maintained by driving responsibly.  The consequences (not punishments) for not driving responsibly is loss of the privilege – plain and simple.

Include a list of all  expected responsibilities that are related to driving.  Examples are: drinking and driving or using other mind-altering substances (even when not driving – being absolutely clean and sober should be a non-negotiable part of the contract), obeying traffic rules, obeying curfew laws, etc.  Follow next with rules that are more family expectations related to driving – Examples are; maintaining a ‘B’ average to get an insurance discount (or whatever grade average you feel appropriate for your teen), chores completed, re-filling the gas tank, keeping the car clean after use (possibly even washing the car).  Remind your teen that until they are 18, parents have the legal right to revoke or suspend a driver’s license, and that you will do so if your rules are not respected.  Also, remind your son that if he doesn’t respect the rules of the DMV that the police will do the same,  (i.e. driving with friends in the car before the first year, etc).  How any traffic tickets, parking tickets and/or accidents will be handled should also be spelled out.

2.  We just found out that our 16yo daughter’s boyfriend (he’s just turned 18) has a prescription for medical marijuana.  Is there any way to make sure she doesn’t use it as well?  Can he get into trouble for sharing with her?  How do we monitor this?

You have quite a situation on your hands there. Monitoring your daughter for potential use should involve the following two elements:

1) Random drug testing. It needs to be truly random, so she does not know when it is coming. Marijuana lasts for a long time in the body and is one of the easiest drugs to catch on a test. It is strongly recommended that you get professional assistance in testing and in handling the results if they are positive. There are an abundance of tricks and methods to beat drug tests (just spend two minutes on Google checking out the plethora of information available and it will make your head spin). Unobserved drug tests are of little to no value, neither are drug tests she can study for ahead of time.

2) Close personal interaction when she returns home. Make a tradition where she needs to give you a hug or kiss on the cheek when she returns home. Take note of the condition of her overall bearing, her eyes and any odors. Also watch for attempts to mask evidence, such as use of perfume, incense, breath mints etc. to mask odors and frequent use of eye drops to mask red or glassy eyes.

As a bottom line, yes it is illegal for him to share it with her (he could lose his prescription privileges if he shares with anyone), however, actually proving that he did, even if she tests positive, is quite another issue. You would do well to adopt a bottom line that if she uses Marijuana at all she will no longer be allowed to associate with people who have known access to it (and you might want to ask yourself just how much of your blessing this relationship has). There also needs to be a bottom line drawn that she cannot be a passenger in a vehicle driven by this young man. Marijuana, as previously noted, lasts in the system for a long time and has been shown to seriously impair the ability to drive. A firm and clear setting of at least these boundaries should be done with your daughter AND the young man in question. They may be done with your daughter separately and beforehand, but the young man needs to hear them also. Your daughter may not be a big fan of the idea, but if a now legally adult young man is going to have a serious relationship with your daughter (who is a minor) he needs to be willing to discuss serious issues related to that relationship with you face to face.

This is the exact type of situation where we need to recognize that we cannot control any of our children’s actions (i.e. – whom they choose for friends or if they choose to partake in alcohol or other drugs) – BUT WE DO CONTROL THE CONSEQUENCES FOR NOT MAKING RESPONSIBLE DECISIONS.

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.

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