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Editor’s Note: In this post, Temple from Mom of Two Teen Boys shares her story about her teenage son and drug use.
How to Talk To Your Teenager About Drugs
Teens can be complicated. I heard someone once say ” Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems. I must say I have to totally agree. When my boys were little, I did not have the same types of worries. At one point my biggest issue with my oldest son was what baseball equipment was best, but now he has much bigger issues.
When they were young and in elementary school, I was pretty confident they were not going to have too many peer issues. Once they got to high school, though, my whole thought process changed. I found that I had much bigger things to worry about.
The Transition from Elementary School to High School
The transition between elementary school and high school and then the years through high school can be really hard for some. There is a whole new element of kids, every school has its own cliques.
Early in my oldest son’s high school years he found new friends and the changes in him were noticeable. My once-athletic son did not want to play sports anymore, became withdrawn and stopped doing the things he once loved. This did not happen as soon as he started high school, but instead it was a gradual change. By the time his senior year came around he was in with the complete wrong crowd.
The friends that I watched him grow up with and that were at my house all the time I hardly saw anymore. I was in complete denial. I did not want to think that he was doing drugs or drinking.
Suddenly, one night I had to face reality. I had heard from him early in the evening, but when it came time for him to be home I could not get in touch him. His phone kept going to voicemail. Usually, my son would always be on time or he would text me.
Soon, he got to be an hour late. Some may say “an hour, that’s it?” But I had a weird feeling that something was wrong. I started driving around looking for him and grew more and more nervous when I was not receiving a call or text saying he was home. I came back home and called the mom of one of the kids he had been hanging around. After the call I left again looking for him. When I didn’t find him, I came back home to check in again and finally he was here.
He’s Home and He’s High
Then the real fear sat in. I have no idea, in the condition he was in, how he got home. My husband said he came in the back and tried to sneak in. I still think someone helped him home and then ran off in fear of getting in trouble. My son was totally messed up. We kept asking where he had been, but he wouldn’t tell.
My husband told me to call 911 because he knew he was on some sort of drug. The police showed up. They kept drilling him and still no name was given. I told them where he had been hanging out. The cops advised us to take him to local ER and they went to the house I had mentioned. While the one policeman was questioning him the other was searching his bedroom. I never thought I would be going through this.
We took him to the emergency room, where he was tested for drugs. It came back in the results that he had benzodiazepines in his system and THC, which is in marijuana. The doctor let us bring him home; he said that the levels in his system were not dangerous levels and that he could sleep it off.
The next day he slept most of the day. I do not think I slept a wink. When he woke up, he was not himself at all. He was very hostile and agitated. We had taken his cell phone from him. He wanted to make a call and grabbed mine. He started getting physical with me.
My dog did not bite him, but the dog had pinned him down because he thought that my son was trying to harm me. Soon after that my husband had come home and my son was still hostile and mean. I had never seen him act that way.
I know I had taken for granted that just because I never did drugs and I only was ever a social drinker, that I would not have to face this with my own children. I was wrong. You can try to set the best example possible, but if they want to try it or do it, they will find a way.
When to Talk to Your Teenager About Drugs
Parents are often surprised when they learn their teens are abusing drugs. Like Temple’s story illustrates, the signs aren’t always clear. There is usually a gradual transition as your child goes from the innocent little one with similarly innocent friends to a larger peer group that may include influences from people you don’t know well.
Because we as parents have less and less control over the friends our children make as they progress through their teenage years, it is important to prepare them for the types of influences they may encounter as they grow older.
Talk to your children about drugs and drug abuse long before they become teenagers. Of course, this won’t guarantee that your children won’t experiment with drugs at some point. You can give them the information in the appropriate doses at the appropriate ages and they may still experiment. That is why it’s vital that your children know that they can come to you if their curiosity has gotten the best of them or if they are feeling pressured to try drugs.
Talk to your children about drugs more than once. Don’t simply give one lecture when they are young and expect it to make an lasting impact. Check in with them every few months to find out what’s going on with their peer group and address any concerns they have about the activities of their friends.
Talk to your children in a non-judgmental manner about their curiosities. This means that you don’t judge their friends and you don’t condemn their curiosity. You will lose their trust if you do. Once that trust is lost, your children may feel compelled to hide their curiosity or experimentation.
When you talk to your teenager about drugs, honesty is the most important factor. Many parents want to scare their children into staying away from drugs. Many parents simply threaten their children with punishment in hopes that fear will keep their children from abusing drugs.
Give your children information about drugs that includes some of the immediate consequences of taking drugs. If you tell your children that drugs may eventually led to them being jobless and homeless, the consequence is too far away to resonate with them. Instead, talk to them about the immediate dangers of drug use such as overdose, poor health, and loss of things that are important to them like extracurricular activities and close friendships. (If missing out on extracurriculars and losing friends due to drug abuse are not seen as consequences by your children, then your child is likely dealing with issues of isolation, self-esteem or boredom. Those issues should be addressed quickly through counseling.)
Resources for talking to your teenager about drugs:
Drug Abuse.org — Learn what drugs are being abused and the side effects of those drugs.
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