So, you just found out your kid might be smoking dope?
Oh boy, this can be a real dousy. Its one of our worst fears as parents isn’t it ? Immediately, we start seeing them sprawled out in some gutter with a needle in their arm 10 years down the track. We jump to all sorts of dire conclusions. It can also just be a real shock when your teen does something that you think is so different to who you thought they were. It can really throw you and make you wonder how good a parent you really are, compared to the sort of parent you thought you were! All good, loving, engaged, parents see behaviours in their kids that seem so left field, we wonder if we have influence in their everyday decisions! Don’t despair, it does not mean they are destined for a life on the streets.
It’s not unusual for teens to experiment with all sorts of risky behaviours at 17. They are testing their toes in the waters of life experiences It’s part of the rites of passage from being a child to an adult. I call it the ” peacocking phase “. (It goes along with the weights training, protein powders mirror preening and fake tan)
Some kids move on after realising it’s not for them and they start to see the negatives and realise it’s a foolish pathway to stay on long term.
Other kids who continue often do so because it serves a purpose in their life. They may be starting to suffer from stress, anxiety, depression and it’s a way to self-medicate and shut out the negative painful feelings.
It may be a way to rebel from too much restriction and overly tough boundaries at home, or discord and unhappiness at home or at school.
Whatever the reasons are, they do need to be explored. Early intervention is the best way to tackle this, so it doesn’t escalate into a bigger problem down the track.
Here are some suggestions for navigating this tricky issue.
The first thing to think about it how you are going to approach the subject with a testy reactive and defensive teen. Questions are always better than a lecture! My kids don the glazed stare if I try to pull the parent on them. Timing is everything too.
Wait until you are having a ” soft ” chat with your son, maybe in the car on the way to sport or if you are cooking together, watching T.V., over dinner. Ie a chat that is indirect and organic. When you are both in a happy chatty mood.
So something like……
1. “I was reading a recent article on Marijuana and I was thinking…”
-discuss it in an abstract and academic way initially.
2.Then mention the evidence that you found which tells you he has been using. You might come at it from an angle of curiosity. Better to not make assumptions or judgements – this will help to keep his defensive guard down and he will be more open to discussion.
a. I was wondering why you had decided to try it?
b. Tell me a bit a bit about what it gives or does for you?
c. What is it like (if you don’t know!)
3 If you have smoked it yourself or used drugs in your past be honest, he will appreciate it. Tell him why you did it and then why you stopped.
4. Tell him that Marijuana is a drug that in evidence-based studies and in recent scientific research papers is a known de- motivator, impairs cognitive functioning, can be addictive, or at least develop dependency, can trigger depression, and for those genetically pre- disposed even bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He is essentially playing Russian roulette with his brain. Is that a risk worth taking?
5. Marijuana is also a known, what I call a “maturity stunter”. Our brain does not finish developing until we are 25 and the prefrontal lobes are the last to develop. This is the area we use for cognitive decision making and risk-taking assessment. Messing with our normal transitional emotional development from child to adult can be instrumental in creating interpersonal relationship problems in our adult lives. I say to my kids “Nobody want to date a 25-year-old on Tinder who is still mentally 17 and worse, everyone knows it except them ” LOL .
6. Talk about his dreams and goals and needs in life. Focusing on what he wants to achieve, and then ask him how does Marijuana fit into this picture? Will it get him closer to what he wants or won’t it?
7 If it’s only recreational then is there something else he can replace it with that will not sabotage his goals?
8.If he finds it hard to talk to you but says he thinks he is unhappy, anxious, or stressed then I suggest a counsellor or psychologist.
9. We all have friends and relatives who have suffered enormously and not achieved their full potential or lead very compromised lives from the collusion of drugs and mental illness – discuss this with him.
I have always scared the pants off my kids with the horrors of drugs by talking about my brother who developed severe bipolar disorder with psychosis after starting to smoke marijuana at 14. Drug use is often a slippery slope for those who get caught up in a cycle of unhappiness and powerlessness. I have shown them progressive before / after photographs of people who use methamphetamine. (Yes, I know!) I get the rolling of the eyes and ” oh mum not the meth faces again “. However, my point has been made -hasn’t it?