Do you suspect that your teen is using or abusing alcohol or drugs? Is there a nagging feeling in the back of your brain that you really need to check this out? Are you afraid of what you might find? Do you worry when your son or daughter is out with friends for hours on end and you really don't know where they are?
Then join the ranks of parenting teens today in America. In almost every interaction I have with parents of teenagers this topic comes up. Parents don't know what to do.
Should I search his room? Should I confront her? Should I demand a drug test? Will I drive an even bigger wedge into our already distant relationship? Maybe it's just normal that she is experimenting... but her moods have changed. Are you frightened for your teen's safety?
Then read on:
The warning signs of teen alcohol or drug abuse:
• Missing school or work.
• Not saying where he or she is going; or being vague about where he or she has been.
• Lying about where he or she has been.
• Stopping activities that he or she used to enjoy and not replacing them with other fun activities.
• Borrowing money from parents or friends and unable to explain loss of money or valuables.
• Sniffling, runny nose, dilated pupils or red eyes.
• Losing appetite or eating too much
• Associating with a new group of friends, often those who use drugs.
• Hiding things that would show alcohol or drug use, liquor bottles, rolling papers or pipes.
• Moodiness, change in personality, avoiding you.
(Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse.)
What you can do:
Parental Monitoring: Supervise your teen or know where your teen is and what they are doing.
Make a Plan: Decide what you will say before you talk to your teen if you suspect alcohol or drug abuse. (Avoid negativity, express your concerns, caring and love.
State the Facts: State what you know from the above warning signs.
Be Open: Listen to what your teen has to say.
Set and Enforce Rules: With care and concern, let your teen know that you will not put up with drug or alcohol use/abuse. "I know you can't stand it when I make rules, but I am your parent and it my job to keep you safe." Hold your teen accountable for his or her actions and set clear consequences for not obeying your rules.
Be Prepared for Obstacles: Many teens will become very angry and defensive and walk away from you. Take a deep breath and go back for round #2.
Keep Talking: Any chance you get, make an attempt to talk with your teen. Don't give up or lose your temper no matter how uncomfortable the situation might seem.
Design a Contract: About rules and their consequences. Both you and your teen sign it. Be clear, firm and concise.
Follow Through: Be consistent. The minute you back off or avoid your teen will run with the freedom.
Know this: Your teen wants you to rein him or her in. It is scary having so much power and no one noticing that you are getting away with breaking rules. Being out of control is not that much fun for your teen either.
About the Author
Susan P. Epstein, LCSW, Parent Life Coach, works with parents looking to get control of their family life. She practiced psychotherapy for 23 years before becoming a coach, writer and speaker. You can read more of Susan's parenting articles, and the special report "Take Back Your Parenting Power" at Susan's website www.ParentingPowers.com.