WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
-Cool down before you blow up. Consider dealing with this tomorrow (you’ll be much smarter).
- “Accept” their lame excuse for now (that same lame excuse you used with your parents).
-Use the event as your excuse to chat about drug use (“Well, since you’re involved to some degree, we need to get to the coffee shop to talk.”).
-Use this as an opportunity to search about the neurological effects of weed, booze, and/or nicotine on teen brains. Do this together and chat about what you find (accept only credible sources e.g., Dr. Andrew Huberman, Stanford University vs. “Walt’s Weed Warrior Website”).
-Know that their THC (marijuana) is 3 to 9 times more potent than in your day.
-Know that their booze is much more potent as well (from the popularity of binge drinking and increasing access/permissiveness).
-Know that weed, booze, and nicotine are amazingly addicting to adolescent brains.
-State that their poor judgment (in “holding drugs for someone” or “just seeing what it’s like”) means that you must now keep a close eye, because you love them!
-Agree to a consequence if this should ever happen again (e.g., drug testing to be sure they haven’t become further involved, loss of away sleepovers, and so on)
-Let them know that this stuff scares the hell out of you because you love them!
WHAT YOU DON'T DO
-Kill them (there are laws about that).
-Deal with this while they are high.
-Call them a liar (even though you used that same, lame excuse on your parents).
-Go crazy with punishments and yelling.
-Go immediately to drug tests, or lock downs unless this gets worse (see DRUGS, USES ROUTINELY).
-Take this personally (“How could you do this to me?”).
-Just ignore it because “they all do it.”
Right now your demeanor means everything. You must be calm at the very moment that you want to go berserk. The irony is that the quieter you speak, the more they’ll hear, even though you likely want to speak louder now than ever before. You must gain control over yourself, or you’ll lose control over helping your kid.
Know that they didn’t do this to hurt you, although that’s our standard parent reaction. If you’re unsure, remember what you were thinking when you got that “how could you do this to me” line from your parents (“I didn’t get drunk to hurt you guys. I drank to have fun.”).
So do like the courts do. Find your kid guilty (“I found this stash in your closet”) then tell them that the “sentencing” will occur later (“I’m too scared and upset to talk now. We’ll talk tomorrow.”). You’ll be a much smarter-sounding parent by then, and your kid will lay awake all night wondering what the heck will happen tomorrow. Be sure to use the word scared and not mad so that they understand that this is a really frightening event, not just a curfew violation.
Go to some new place to talk (like that coffee shop) to underscore the importance of the topic. If you’re partnered, be sure you’re both on the same page about what your parental message should be before you guys engage your kid.
Overall, the strategy is to start with the least invasive intervention and then ratchet up the intrusiveness of each subsequent consequence if further drug use occurs. This allows your kid to always have the option to pull back from scary behavior and rebuild trust with you. If you go to drastic consequences right away (“You’re grounded for seventeen years!!!”) you could provoke a huge blow up where they might do something that makes drug experimentation look tame. Save your ammo for when you might really need it.
Alcohol is included here as a drug because not only is it a drug, it’s the drug. Booze kills more of our children than all the other drugs combined.
For teens, marijuana is not the “safer-drug” as many adults see it. In fact, both marijuana and alcohol are particularly vicious and terribly addictive to soft adolescent brains, and “nic” appears to be a gateway to other drugs. And, surprisingly, vaping nicotine is much more addictive and thus dangerous than combusting it since they can vape it everywhere without getting caught and thus get enormous doses. My teen clients’ eyes usually go wide when I just hand them the good research on these drugs and let them read it for themselves.
Accept their lame explanation about the drugs without question. Getting into a “Yes-you-did”/“No-I-didn’t” shouting match will get you nowhere but bad. Proving that they’re a liar will only humiliate and infuriate them. They know that you know (the truth) and that’s good enough for now. Your goal is not to persecute them, but to make them safer by shaping their beliefs with facts.
Using this issue as an opportunity for another heart-to-heart on drugs will get you a lot, particularly if they see your love-based fear and not your fear-based rage. Loud parental yelling is easy to blow off. Quiet parental terror (for the thought of losing a child to drugs) hits home and makes kids think.
Your first job is to teach, not to control; it’s to shape beliefs, not to impose pain. Remember that the safe kid at the beer party is not the one who says, “I can’t drink---my father will kill me.” That just sets up a game of how to drink and hide it from the old man. That’s an easy game that you probably played. The safe kid is the one who says, “Um, no thanks. I don’t drink.” How you get them there is by teaching to shape their beliefs, not hurting to cause their pain.
Drugs have become so pervasive in your child’s world that they seem normal and “no big deal.” As of this writing a bizarre number of American parents (33%) voluntarily provide these drugs to their teenaged kids and to their kids’ friends.
Twenty-four percent do these drugs with their children. The unfortunate fact is that most of our kids will experiment with these drugs before 12th grade. You must make this a very big deal by responding calmy, lovingly but firmly to let them know that this is a concern far beyond messy rooms or poor grades.
This is about saving their lives.
Have other teen concerns?
Contact Dr. Bradley to discuss creating a program tailor-made for your specific needs
Dr. Michael J. Bradley Adolescent Psychologist
Suite 15-B, 1200 Bustleton Pike Feasterville PA 19053
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