Parenting 101

March 2013


1.  As a single dad (sober 17years) to two teen-age sons I’m concerned about the move to legalize marijuana.  I’ve been honest with my kids about my own use, but how do I continue my “hard line” when everywhere I look and everything I hear about marijuana makes it seem as if it’s harmless.

Assuming that your use is in the past (if not, then stopping your own use is the most impactful thing you can do to keep them Marijuana free),  it is good to keep an ongoing dialogue with them about the dangers of Marijuana. One focus needs to be the facts known about Marijuana and the other the fact that something being legal does not make it harmless, alcohol being a great example.  The following link provides some excellent information regarding  the public health consequences associated with legalization:  www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/marijuanainfo.   Assuming that you stopped for some very specific reasons, it would be good to share with your sons any and all the negative effects, both physical and psychological, that contributed to your decision to stop.  You may also want to point out, that ‘if’ marijuana is legalized, it will most likely be restricted to persons over 21, like alcohol.  The simple reason is that individuals under 21 are not in a stage of life where they can completely understand the risks and impacts of substance use that could very well change the course of their lives.   Also,  research has repeatedly shown that parents can be the strongest influence on adolescents’ attitudes towards drug use.  Being a good example, sending a consistent message (one talk does not do it), and being  a good listener will help them find the truth.

2.  I just found out that my 17yo daughter is pregnant.  And if that’s not bad enough, she’s been smoking and drinking with her friends and, in general, been pretty much out of control for over a year.  She hasn’t been to a full day of school in ages and now I’m worried sick about the child she’s carrying.   I don’t know where to turn or what to do.

You are right to be concerned about the child your daughter  is carrying. Alcohol, Marijuana and Tobacco are all capable of having devastating negative impacts on that child. There is nothing sadder than permanent harm done to a complete innocent. There is help available for your daughter. There are a number of publicly funded treatment centers that specialize in pregnant or parenting women, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Control division can help you find one near you.  It is important to note that when a child is born and tests positive or shows clear signs of drug exposure, medical staff are mandated to report to DCFS and they will open a file.  If your daughter is unwilling to seek help you are faced with some hard choices.  There are a number of options you will want to explore to protect your unborn grandchild involving interventions with your daughter, boundaries on your support for her continued harmful behaviors, and involvement of the authorities. None of these are black and white or cut and dried. A good first step would be to engage a counselor or therapist knowledgeable about addiction to help you  find the right decisions for you.

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.