Category Archives: Role Models

Parenting 101

August 2012

1.    I’m curious about these Hookah Bars I see around the area.  Do they have age restrictions?  Is it just “regular” tobacco smoked in them?  Do they serve alcohol, too?  I have two high schoolers and would not like it if they were able to go into those establishments. Thank you.

Hookah bars are subject to the same laws and regulations as apply to other methods of smoking tobacco  (cigarettes, cigars etc.), so these can change from city to city. It is illegal for those under 18 to be sold tobacco products in California and that includes Hookah bars. The tobacco products smoked at Hookah bars are often flavored. Hookah bars, may in some areas allow indoor smoking if their primary business is the sale of tobacco products, similar to a cigar shop/lounge. Any establishment that serves alcohol must follow all applicable state and local laws regarding patrons under age 21. Because Hookah bars do target a younger, generally college age crowd, they are not likely to serve alcohol, although some bars and clubs that serve alcohol have created outdoor hookah areas. Hookahs are just as dangerous and addictive as any other method of smoking tobacco and you are right in not wanting your children to be frequenting establishments that promote it. If there is a particular establishment that you are concerned about, you may want to check what licenses that establishment holds and what state and local laws apply. Selling of tobacco products to minors or allowing minors on the premises, if law forbids their presence, can lead to fines and loss of license for retailers.

2. We have a 4yo son who is very difficult to “control.”  If he doesn’t get what he wants he sometimes goes into a frenzy and throws huge fits (it doesn’t matter where we are).  It’s gotten so bad we hate to take him with us anywhere.  We’ve tried several different kinds of discipline but it seems nothing works.  Is he too young for counseling?  What about spanking?  Help, please.

All children learn different behavioral methods in order to attempt to get the things they want, or believe they want.  In truth, adults do this as well, only children have fewer resources or ‘power’ to be able to get what adults can.  As a result they resort to any behavior that provides them with results.  To a child, a good result is anything that gets others, especially parents, engaged.  A very simple rule of engagement is the more attention you can draw to yourself, the better the chance you will succeed in getting what you want.  This explains why your child goes into a “frenzy,” which is another term for a tantrum.

Your son may be only four years old, but he knows perfectly well that you not only dislike this behavior but it genuinely upsets you and puts him in a position of  ‘negotiating’ with you for things he wants.  It doesn’t matter whether he gets positive or negative attention, they both draw you into his personal drama to the point you will be very tempted to give him what he wants so he will stop.  Research shows that children first learn this type of manipulative behavior at 7 months of age, so at four years old, your son is an old pro.

It begins with small situations that ‘upset’ him, and over the years grows into what can seem like a frenzy.  Your only hope of stopping this behavior, and it can be stopped, is to learn to ‘disengage’ with your child.  When you first begin to ignore this behavior there is a natural reaction of him to increase his frenzied behavior in order to maintain the hook it has on you.  However, if you can hold out, the behavior will begin to fade.

At home, have a designated place where the child is in ‘time out’ until they settle down.  Do not engage in conversation, debate, or give any attention during this time.  If it happens at the market or in a restaurant, simply leave your cart, or excuse yourself from the table, and remove  both you and the child from the immediate environment.  Put him in a place you temporarily can use for time out that is just outside the store or restaurant and explain that he can return when his ‘tantrum’ is over.  You may have to leave early from the store or the restaurant, but these small sacrifices will pay big dividends in the end.

From what you describe of your child, he will be more likely to change when your parenting changes than by listening to words that a stranger (counselor) would tell him.  Children process actions much better than words.  Since you will be the one with him when inappropriate behavior surfaces, you are in a far better position to provide guidance.  While very moderate spanking, that never leaves red marks, may be legally accepted, it has not been shown to improve behavior. The main disadvantage of spanking is that it inadvertently justifies hitting others when we are upset, it sets a negative example for our children, and is totally unnecessary to help children learn appropriate behaviors.

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.

Parenting 101

July 2012

1.   My husband and I have always been open and honest with our three kids about substance abuse, including alcohol and marijuana.  However, with all the talk of decriminalization and/or medical marijuana, it is getting more difficult to “convince” them that using could take a heavy toll on their lives.  What can we say to maintain our position with credibility and not sound like we’re stuck in the past?

This is such a great question for the times.  It truly is more difficult today to stand behind an argument about the dangers of marijuana when currently marijuana use is riding the borderline of legality.  Decriminalization and medical usage have clouded the waters in our society’s discussion of Marijuana far more than necessary. Neither consideration changes the dangers that Marijuana use poses in the slightest. It is the same substance if it is decriminalized or not (which is not to say decriminalization is not an important issue, see RAND’s white paper on what would happen if it were legalized). Tobacco cigarettes are not criminalized, but do we doubt at all that they are very dangerous and unhealthy? It is also the same substance, with the same risks, whether it has medical use or not. Cocaine is used medically. Oxycontin is used medically. Valium is used medically. Would anyone advocate that this means that these substances are safe for recreational use? We do innumerable things in the name of helping sick people medically, that we would never want to subject a healthy person to (surgery, radiation etc.). The content and handling of the Compassionate Use Act (not the “free for all getting high is o.k.” act) has presented some serious problems. The people of California wanted to make it o.k. for sick and suffering people to have access to a medicine they previously did not (despite the fact that there is still significant debate in the medical community whether Marijuana is a best practice medication). The law was not intended to allow free use, though the way it was implemented and the way some profiteering doctors have handled it have made it defacto legal for those over 18, at least for now. The facts and the research on the effects of Marijuana do not change with legislation. There are plenty of articles you can find if you simply ‘Google’ “The dangers of today’s marijuana.” An example of what you would find is as follows: “The potency of THC, the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, has more than doubled in the last twenty years creating a greater risk for impairment and a far higher risk of addiction.” So, we suggest you find a number of credible articles, the best ones have scientific research to back up their facts.      Have another of your “open and honest” discussions and share both your fears and facts.  Marijuana has many, and sometimes more, of the toxic chemicals found in tobacco that collect in the body with each use.  Point out how common abuse and addiction are in both the adult and secondary school populations, which greatly disrupts and destroys individuals lives and the lives of their family members who love them. Good for you for taking this issue seriously and arming yourself with information!

2. I’m a single mom with one son who is 13.  I work to support us and can’t be with him all day long.  A couple of times I’ve come home and would swear I smell cigarette smoke in the apartment.  When I ask him he denies it but I’m not sure I believe him.  At what point do I stop trusting him and breach his privacy?

The general rule about breaching privacy is that it is done whenever there is any suspicion that involves potential dangers for your child.  You are at that point. If you smell cigarette smoke it is because it is there. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure that your house is free from dangerous chemicals and that your 13 year old son is not starting an addiction that is devastating. The privacy he is entitled to is limited. Smelling cigarette smoke more than once in your apartment is sufficient enough to search his room and belongings when he is not at home.  If you don’t find anything, wait until the next incident and repeat your efforts.  I would smell the clothes he puts into the dirty clothes bin, and/or ask him for a kiss when he returns home from being with his friends to determine if his breath smells of tobacco use.

Tobacco is an extremely addictive drug for anyone, but the younger one is when they start, the greater the chances of addiction. His brain is still developing and very malleable, including in critical parts related to addiction.

Many cities now have agencies that have prevention programs for young smokers.  If you can locate some support systems, you may be able to get information that will help to educate your son, and/or possible cessation programs if you determine that he has been smoking.

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.

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.

Parenting 101

April 2012

1. Recently my husband’s work hours were cut and we’re struggling financially, now his drinking has increased quite a bit and he’s always angry – at first he just was angry with me but now he’s begun to take it out on our children as well, yelling at them for no reason, or dishing out very harsh punishment for small issues.  I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he says he’s fine and doesn’t need help.  I don’t want to turn into a nag, but I don’t know what to do.  Thank you for your help.

You are right on target with not wanting to “nag.”   Some of the most challenging aspects of being in a marriage relationship is stepping up when you see a possible ‘train wreck’ ahead.  What is happening in your family now seems to be one of those times.  It will not be easy, but your husband needs you now more than ever to be assertive (not aggressive), and insist that the two of you talk about your situation. There are three issues that you need to attend to and that you can do something about. First:  empower yourself in preparation for dealing with what is unlikely to be a quick or easy process. Get educated on alcoholism and alcohol abuse and misuse.  Public education is offered by most local treatment centers; there are wonderful resources online and print material is also available. Get support so that you are not alone. Alanon is a wonderful resource for those affected by family members’  drinking and meetings are plentiful in the South Bay. Local treatment centers and churches may also offer support groups. Second: make sure your children are protected, both physically and emotionally. What you describe is harmful to children. Decide where your lines are regarding the treatment of your children and clearly communicate these to your husband (preferably when he is not drinking). If these lines are continually crossed,  you may need to call in help, whether that be the Department of Children and Family Services or the Police. You cannot allow yourself or your children to be victims of ongoing abuse of any nature. Third:  lovingly encourage your husband to get help, while making that as easy as possible. Research what treatment options are open for him and contact local interventionists to explore using that method. Shaming him, agitated emotional appeal, meeting anger with anger, and judging and/or manipulating have all proven highly ineffective in getting alcoholics or problem drinkers to seek help. Communicate as clearly and calmly as you can your concerns for him, yourself,  and your children. Let him know you love him and want him healthy and happy. This approach gives you the best chance to positively impact his choice, but there are, unfortunately, no guarantees.   You may need to make very hard decisions to ensure your own and your children’s welfare and that is where the support you have built will become critical.

2.  How can I tell if my 14yo son is depressed or just moody like other teens?  Some days he’s fine – funny & like his old self – then others he barely speaks to anyone, shrugs off my concern, and stays in his room with his ear phones in.  Could his mood swings be related to drugs?  How do I tell the difference?

To answer your question directly: is your son depressed- possibly!  Is he just a moody teenager- most likely! Are his mood swings related to drugs – maybe! The true key is communication.  Share this article with him, tell him you love him and worry about him.  Then sit back and listen.  You will have to wait for it, because he most likely won’t just begin talking. Be patient, non-judgmental, and non-critical with whatever he says.  Just listen and learn.  If it is in part, or whole,  substance driven, there will likely be other signs such as unusual odors, abnormal eye appearance, friends with known substance involvement, drug related material ( High Times Magazine, visits to drug related sites online, t-shirts with drug related slogans etc.), increased secrecy, attempts to keep physical distance, loss of interest in activities he’s always enjoyed,  or others.  Consider implementing random drug screening (which can be done at a very reasonable cost) both as a confirmation  and as a preventative measure (it’s easier for a teen to say “no” if they know they will be caught, plus it is perfectly o.k. for him to use you as his “over protective” parent  if offered drugs).  If you see multiple signs that drug use is involved, contact one of the local treatment centers specializing in adolescents and obtain a professional assessment, which is often available at very reasonable to no cost.

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

Parenting 101

March 2012

1. Our 12yo son is a really good kid – gets good grades, helps around the house, honest & trustworthy, and a very good athlete.  However, he has a bad temper and it flares most often if he loses at athletics.  He gets very angry at himself, wants to quit, trash talks himself – then he calms down and is fine again.  How can I help him get his anger under control?

This kind of reactive behavior is usually the result of a hidden low self image.  When he experiences success in sports or school he feels very good about himself which feeds the need to be the ‘perfect’ child.  However, if he has experiences which he perceives as ‘failure’ he falls into the trap where he thinks if he is not perfect then he is worthless.  The fact that he is able to calm down and be fine again is a very good sign. Highly competitive athletes tend to be very hard on themselves in a way that is inextricably linked to their highly competitive nature. It would not be unexpected that a 12 year old would deal with these feelings in a vibrant fashion, as life can appear much more “all or nothing” at that age. The stress that he feels, real or imagined, is putting a great deal of pressure on him to succeed at everything he participates in.  It sounds like he may be trapped in a maze that he has no clue about how to escape.

If you feel you can lead him out of this cyclical thinking, the goal would be to help him to be more accepting of his faults, if not, you may want to seek out a therapist who understands what your son is experiencing and the life issues that have created this syndrome. Finally, if any of your son’s current behavior while angry appears dangerous to his welfare or begins to escalate, we would suggest contacting a therapist who specializes in adolescents and/or sports psychology.

2.  My 17yo daughter has always been on the college track.  Now that college is just “around the corner” she’s backing off from it, as well as her friends and family.  She’s losing focus, doing just enough in school to get by, and I’m worried.  She won’t talk to me and says she won’t see a counselor.  What am I to do?

What you describe is not an uncommon issue with adolescents who are approaching, what they perceive as ‘their last years of childhood’.  For some, the responsibility of going to college or getting a job scares the motivation right out of them.   A fear of having all this responsibility ahead of them can explain a sudden change in attitude.  Some will cling to their childhood and put distance between them and anyone who they feel is pushing them into the future. Seniors doing just enough to get by after the college application and acceptance process is done is by no means an unusual occurrence.

However, her backing off from friends is not a usual part of that dynamic. Sometimes this is an indication of alcohol or other drug involvement; sometimes it is a precursor to depression or other life issues.  Without more detail it is difficult to discern whether this “backing off” is due to an incident in her life (relationship break up etc.), the stress of her previous achievement efforts catching up with her, or onset of a diagnosable condition such as depression. As the parent and the adult, it is your responsibility to make sure that her welfare is attended to.  Maintain as calm and loving a demeanor as you can, but be clear that as a parent who cares deeply about her, you will not drop your concern, nor ignore this significant negative shift in her life.  Give her as much power as you can in making the dialogue happen, but a clear message that the issue cannot be ignored.  Perhaps let her find and choose the place and time of day to have a serious talk with you, or give her the option of communicating by letters back and forth if she would prefer, etc.

It might also be helpful if these feelings can be explored with a close friend or a trusted relative.  Look for someone she looks up to or admires to talk to her.  Talk to her friends to see if they have noticed a change in her as well.  Also, take some time to observe her actions and listen carefully to her words, but don’t wait too long to find out what’s going on.  If she won’t go to a professional and nothing changes, then it would be good for to you seek professional help to find ways that will be helpful for her.

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.

Program That Involves Parents Can Help Reduce Teen Problem Behavior, Study Suggests

A program that provides feedback and skills training for parents can help reduce teen problem behavior, a new study has found. The program, called Family Check-Up, is short, requiring only about four-and-a-half hours,
Science Daily reports.

The study included 593 seventh and eighth graders and their families, half of whom were randomly assigned to participate in the program. The researchers asked the students about their families’ interactions, and videotaped parents interacting with their children at home and school.

The researchers found the program reduced family conflict, parental monitoring, and teens’ antisocial behavior and alcohol use. Their findings appear in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Most adolescents with behavioral problems see professionals after they are in trouble instead of beforehand, which is why this program is unique; there are few preventive programs like it,” Garry Sigman, MD, Director of Adolescent Medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, told Science Daily. He cautioned, “It requires either a school district willing to incur the time and financial costs of trained professionals or collaboration between schools and mental health professionals. In either case, most districts do not have funds or interest in this type of endeavor.”

Source: Join Together

38 Million American Adults are Binge Drinkers, CDC Says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 38 million American adults are binge drinkers, and most of them are ages 18 to 34. In a new report, the CDC says that while binge drinking is more common among young adults, those age 65 and older who binge drink do so more often—an average of five to six times a month.

Binge drinking is defined as men who have five or more drinks in one sitting, and women who have four or more drinks at one time, HealthDay reports.

Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States, and accounts for about three-fourths of the more than $200 billion in costs from alcohol abuse, according to the CDC.

“Binge drinking causes a wide range of health, social and economic problems and this report confirms the problem is really widespread,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said in a news release. “We need to work together to implement proven measures to reduce binge drinking at national, state and community levels.”

The CDC found binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more. However, binge drinkers with household incomes of less than $25,000 have the largest number of drinks per sitting—an average of eight to nine drinks.

Source: drugfree.org

Parenting 101

September 2011


1.  My ex-husband is a heavy smoker and when our kids come home from a weekend with him they are disgusted by how they and their clothes smell – they’re more & more reluctant to spend time with him because of it.  When I mention it to him, he just scoffs at the notion.  What to do?

It is sadly common that issues like this one, between a divorced couple, become more about power struggles than about the ‘sensibility’ of the real issue.  Almost always these are a continuation of the ‘unresolved conflicts’ that the couple developed during their relationship period, and may have very little  to do with what the actual problem presents.

There are many realities all playing at once.  There is  dad’s reality that he wants time with his children.  And as far as he is concerned, his vices should never interfere with his right.  There is mom’s reality, who believes that her children’s health is at risk and feels it is her responsibility to take some kind of action. There is the children’s reality that they dislike the smoking so much that it’s interfering with their experience with their father.  And there is the social stigma that comes from the evidence that smoking is not only unhealthful, but second hand smoke can be seriously harmful to anyone who is exposed to it.    It is no accident that the last two decades have seen a tremendous increase in laws and regulations to prevent second hand smoke exposure.

The bottom line is  you need to do your best to try and keep your ex-husband from perceiving this situation as your agenda to get what you want.  The key here is his children.  While he may discount their opinions because they are children, he will eventually be persuaded by them if they continue to express their dissatisfaction about the smoking without criticizing him.  This is best done with ‘I’ statements.  I.E. “Dad, It makes me feel sick when I am inhaling the smoke that is in the house.  I can smell it on my clothes for days after I have been at your house.  I love spending time with you, but it’s difficult for me to deal with the cigarettes.”

Your children need to be fully supported in not being exposed to serious health hazards. If they  have tried to explain the situation to their father and he either ignores them or tells them he doesn’t care about their problem with his smoking, then  a family law attorney or the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services can assist you with information on how you may pursue a smoke free environment for them, should you decide to pursue this further.

2.  We have two boys – 12 & 14 – and I’m very concerned about how aggressive some girls are.  They call and text at all hours, wear suggestive clothing, and many seem way too interested in “getting physical” for my comfort.  How do I deal with this without my boys tuning out?

Unless you want to risk taking on the entire peer population of your boys, we suggest you use some simple ‘limit’ setting that will provide them with a clear message from you.  Begin with limits on when the phone is to be used.  There should be blackout periods for phone usage beginning sometime around bed time, and extending until breakfast.  Other times may be during class, homework time, or possibly during ‘family’ time.  Whatever you decide should make sense and be reasonable.

Other guidelines you can provide your boys is that there is to be no ‘sexting’ – texting that has overt sexual references.  Check their texts from time to time.  Explain to your boys that until they are a certain age that it is not acceptable to have exchanges of touching of the genital areas.  By the way, if you have not spoken to your boys about sex, now is a perfect time. Be sure to talk about appropriate and inappropriate behavior between boy and girls.  The guidelines for this is pretty much the same as their school’s guidelines. Most schools do  have a ‘family life’ curriculum which covers academic sex topics, but it does not set guidelines or provide morals for which behaviors are appropriate and which are not.

As far as the girls wearing suggestive clothing;  much of it is the accepted fashion of today (blame our generation).  However, while many girls like to wear clothes that show off their physical features, there are very few of them that would wear something that exposes entire genital areas or all of their breast.  Unless you see something that really pushes the limits, it is best to focus on your boys.

The questions above are from parents who live in the South Bay. The responses 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 contact: events@sbcoalition.com

« Older Entries Recent Entries »