My father was juvenile narcotics officer for our local police department. He is a great guy who always took the time to talk to me about everything from my period to how it feels to smoke marijuana. As his daughter I never felt any dialogue between us was uncomfortable. By the time I reached high school I was well aware of the different kinds of drugs, how they were used, what they looked like and most importantly why to avoid them. My father also drank beer (not excessively) and I grew up with beer being left in the refrigerator just as commonly as Coca Cola or orange juice.
By the time I reached high school, I did against all my better judgment, dabble with drugs and alcohol. I tried smoking pot – remember going to a Social Studies class high – laughing the whole time and routinely drank beer at the high school football games on Friday night. Sometimes older kids would bring whiskey and we would inconspicuously mix it into our Dr Pepper bottles. It was always easy to find local losers who would buy us six packs of Milwaukee’s Best for a few bucks extra and we would then drive around town drinking warm beer until curfew drew near. I knew better and so did my friends –but we did it anyways. I was a straight A student with a pillar of parental supervision, one of the ‘good kids’ in my class and yet I, like so many others tried drugs and alcohol. There is a good chance that your child is dabbling as well. Whether or not you decide to believe it is simply a choice in your parenting style.
Although undesirable it is probably somewhat normal that teenagers will experiment with drugs. They are readily available at schools and teenagers are under a lot of peer pressure. Regardless of how well we prepare them, warn them, teach them or talk to them it is difficult to actually walk in their shoes. I think there are very few kids who actually enjoy the feeling they get from doing drugs or drinking and more who simply like the feeling of being accepted by others. Some kids turn into druggies while others experiment and then move on. The trick is deciding which one of those categories your child fits into.
If you child has emotional needs that are not being met, shows signs of depression, has a family history of drugs or alcohol abuse, takes regular medications for disorders like ADD or ADHD or shows immediate and alarming drops in grade, loses long time friends and gives up favorite activities – there is a good reason to believe that your child is using drugs and alcohol extensively. If routine discipline has no effect, they are sluggish and sallow, holed up in their room and constantly borrowing or stealing money -drugs and alcohol could very well be the problem. The sooner you notice the sooner you can intercede and the sooner you can get to the root causes of their alleged abuse. As a parent though, it is very easy to over react to a single act of drug use. Before we accuse our children or seek help for a problem we should be sure it exists. Hysteria might be warranted but it is not always necessary. You know your child better than anyone and as long as you are paying attention, not believing everything they say, and remembering all the things you did as a teen to get away with murder – you will be adept at figuring out the extent of your child’s habits. Sure, when it comes to drugs or alcohol the best thing for any teen is to avoid them altogether and any use should prompt swift and immediate discipline- but when it comes to a teenager we should never put the cart before the camel.
I am Sure My Teenager is Doing Drugs
Once you suspect your teen is trying drugs or alcohol– try to talk with them openly. Try to understand why they tried it (even though that’s obvious) and try to give them opportunities to make better decisions on their own. Doing drugs should never be an accepted passage of growing up, rather one that is clearly breaking the house rules that you have set. But keep in mind that a large percentage of teens will do it anyways and our handling of the situation can play a large role in whether or not our children continue to do so.
My dad didn’t want me to drink, but I knew enough and had enough trust in him that on several nights when my friends wanted to drive me home drunk, I called him instead. He would pick me up in his patrol car, saying very little. One day I woke up in the morning with a beer on my nightstand. My dad had put a note on it that said, “until you are ready to drink this beer in front of me, you are not ready to drink – so until then DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!” That night at dinner, another beer had been placed next to me instead of tea. The whole family ate their meal staring at me to see if I had the guts to open the can. This went on for a week or so and then finally and thankfully it ended. I never got grounded but I was well aware of how disappointed my father was in me, and I never drank again, at least not until I was of age. I actually started avoiding football games and got real serious about basketball and softball again. Just as the tide had come in, it went back out and I was cured.
Most things with children are phases. The phases start from the moment they are born and continue for the rest of their life. If it seems that you child’s habits have become more than a phase than obviously the time to get help was yesterday. I am a firm believer that in order for kids to know how to drink responsible they need to witness responsible drinking. Don’t lock up the liquor cabinets or hide the beer – and let them see that it is okay for adults to indulge (lightly) once in a while.
Drugs on the other hand are illegal and can mean some pretty stiff consequences even for kids who are just experimenting. The schools will try to do their job educating teens about drug use but parents must also be part of the solution. If my teenager came home with a dime bag of marijuana in their pocket I would probably call the police and allow them to suffer the consequences in that matter. This probably would not make me a favorite parent but it would be a prompt lesson in the dangers of drugs. I am not a mother to be their best friend, I am mother to take care of them and know their best interests.
Perhaps one of the most important things my dad taught me was that when a situation got out of control, I could always call him for help. There are many occasions where this can be the difference between life and death. Teenagers do not have the brain growth to support their decisions, this is a fact. We may not understand why they do what they do and chances are they don’t either – but we do have to continue to parent them and take care of them as best we can. If you are wondering if your teenager is doing drugs than they probably are. The instinct of parent knows all of that which a child doesn’t reveal and if your gut is telling you something is going on than you are wise and right to investigate it.