Parenting 101

October 2012

My husband and I are currently separated and share joint custody of our 15yo daughter.  My issue is this – I do not want my daughter drinking at all but my husband believes that if he allows her small amounts of alcohol at home, she won’t feel the need to drink outside with friends.  I strongly disagree.  I don’t know how to get my husband to agree on this.

Research (including very recent research) shows that supervised drinking at home has opposite effects to those intended.  For instance a 2011 study, lead-authored by University of Minnesota professor Barbara McMorris, found that teens whose parents allow supervised drinking are more likely to have problems discontinuing alcohol use, have problems at school, problems at home, get into fights, suffer from injuries caused by alcohol, experience “blackouts” or unconsciousness due to extreme intoxication, and have sexual experiences they later regret. This and multiple other studies have shown that allowing in- the- house drinking for teens increases their risks. We would encourage a conversation with your husband based on science and data rather than opinion.  Look up and print out the research and ask him what information he had based his opinion on. Offer to take a parenting class together or see a family therapist together, if necessary, to get on the same page with this issue. Let him know that you know that this is an extremely serious issue for your daughter’s welfare.  It’s essential to remember that when parents, either living together or apart, do not provide a united front, they send contradictory messages to their children.  The result is a huge compromise to the parental front and leadership. Your ex-husband is most likely coming from a place of personal belief that hopefully can be modified by him reading up on the statistics of parents who believe in this model.  Most parents who believe the same as your ex-husband are attempting to win their child’s respect by being the ‘cool’ parent.  No matter what your husband continues to do, always keep in mind that even if your children don’t like that you are too strict, they will, in the end, have more respect for you because they will eventually understand how much you care for their safety.

Our 16yo son participates in several sports and is very popular with this teammates.  I have a growing concern about the number of his friends who’ve mentioned the “meds” they take for pain and injuries suffered during  their games.  He says they don’t share but I’m very suspicious that that is not true.  What is the best way to ensure that he doesn’t use his friends’ medications?  I’m not even sure how to tell if my son is using their meds.

There is no way to absolutely ensure that your son does not use his friends “meds.”  Some “meds” will show up on urine drug tests and some will not. There are some important pieces of information that would be needed to give you the best and most complete answer.  For example, are his friends talking about the “meds” in front of you and naming them? If so,  what “meds” are they taking? Are there reasons for your suspicions that he may have taken the “meds”?  A one-on-one conversation with a knowledgeable local drug and alcohol counselor, or therapist who works with youth, may well have a good return on investment  in helping you find clarity and the best approach to take.  Above all, it is critical that you do your best not to compromise your trust in your child by making unfounded accusations about possible drug use.  Until you have proof, assume the best.  But, do sit down and address your concerns being careful to use ‘I’ statements.  ‘You’ statements almost always come across as accusations.  Explain to him you need a way of finding reassurance that you do not need to worry about the drugs you have heard about.  Ask him for suggestions.  Suggest that maybe he would agree to enroll in the voluntary drug program at school (most high schools now have them).  However, most importantly, keep your communication open and truthful.

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.