Having a troubled teen doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent
What would you do if you found out your normally good teen was engaging in risky behavior? Maybe you’ve been ignoring signs of substance abuse.
Making excuses for their erratic mood swings. Suddenly they are becoming withdrawn, failing in school and unrecognizable — but you figure, it’s a typical teenager, or is it?
In these times of uncertainty, are we caught questioning our parenting skills?
From the moment a child is born many of us are filled with unexpected overwhelming feelings. An unconditional love that we only heard about from friends and family, but never imagined until we held our own infant.
We’re prepared for those terrible two’s, which are not so horrible in the scheme of life. We’re possibly a bit tired running after a toddler, however the rewards of watching them go off to pre-school then kindergarten are so exhilarating. Proud moments.
We start the sports, maybe dance and in my situation, gymnastics with my daughter (soccer with my son). Never a dull moment. Many parents soon find out what their mom and dad went through being a taxi-parent.
Yes, this is bliss — raising our children (capturing the memories like our parents did and quickly realizing it’s gone before we know it).
Then the tween and teenage years begin.
The child we used to know
We raise our children with a foundation to be good and hopefully, respectable people. Many families schedule meal times together at least a few times a week, some are dedicated to their religious beliefs and have somewhat of a stable home environment. It’s more common today to have a single parent household, like mine, but I don’t feel that’s a handicap. It’s a way of parenting that only requires adjustments compared a two-parent home.
It doesn’t matter the shape or size of your family, sadly it won’t prevent good teenagers from landing in hot water.
What to do you do when your angel that you raised from birth (or possibly adopted at birth) is suddenly someone you no longer recognize? The child you used to bounce on your knee or cheer on at baseball practice or clap for at dance recitals? The son or daughter that used to be part of the family — part of your life and most importantly used to be happy.
Good teens, bad choices
You’re suddenly faced with a defiant, angry and rebellious youth. You suspect they are experimenting with drugs, something they swore they would never do — and you had so many discussions about this. They drop out of their favorite activities, they’ve always been a good student however now barely passing and you realize their peer group is changing.
What do you do when you feel like you’re being held hostage in your own home? Locking your own bedroom door – checking your medicine and liquor cabinets and walking on eggshells with how you communicate with your teen for fear they may explode with you?
Since 2001 I’ve helped parents of at-risk teens who are facing one of their biggest fears – they failed as a parent.
The majority of parents that contact me have already exhausted all their local resources such as therapy, out-patient and sometimes even short-term in patient. In some cases they have even sent their teen to live with a relative in hopes that it would make the difference. It doesn’t.
What do you do when you’ve reached your wit’s end?
Here are a few comments parents have made to me over the years. Does any of it sound familiar to you? The names have been changed for privacy:
My 17 year-old son who has a bad attitude about school, even though he is smart, is hanging out with the wrong friends, has been caught drinking and smoking pot with friends, doesn’t play sports anymore. – Debbie, Bradenton, FL
My daughter is 15. Defiant and starting using drugs. She will not listen, she sneaks out at night and has gotten two curfew tickets. – Kelly, Dallas TX
My 16 yr old son is very bright and articulate. He does drink, smoke pot and take mushrooms, has a violent reaction to being asked to help do anything around the house, has a superiority complex and feels he knows more than anyone. -David, Seattle WA
Chelsea was a good student until sophomore year. She was bullied by a group of girls and beat up and then neglected from her group of friends and has steadily declined. Quit sports/poor grades and now as freshman in college, I believe she is doing drugs and admitted to high alcohol consumption. -Terri, Peoria IL
Trevor 16. Since last summer, he’s been smoking pot but denies current usage. He’s intellectually bright and musically gifted, but grades in HS are down the drain–3rd quarter: 2 F’s and 2 D’s in his academic subjects. -Andrew, Greenwich CT
Mark 15. We’re tired of being held hostage in our home–can’t leave him alone, afraid to say anything that might cause him to “snap” and go ballistic. – Linda, Richmond VA
Jeffrey was a victim of bullying for several months until he had enough and got into a fight at school and got suspended. He pretty much “beat the other kid up” for lack of a better phrase. Lisa, St. Louis MO
14 year old daughter. I feel like a hostage most of the time and forced to emerge through a mine field never knowing when I am going to be blown up with her mood swings. I am frightened for her and for us. – Leann, Laguna Niguel CA
My daughter is 13 years old. She’s in such a rage. The heart that use to be in her chest is now just a black empty hole. She doesn’t care who she hurts both mentally and physically. Samantha, Westchester NY
16 yr old son. We need something that he can’t just walk out of. My Wife and I are extremely stressed and it is getting worse. We feel like hostages in our own home. That is not healthy. -Bruce, Denver CO
And then there was me
My kids grew up in Broward County, only minutes from Parkland in Weston, Florida where you would never imagine the unthinkable could occur — until it does.
Living in areas like Parkland or Weston may seem like living in a bubble. What many don’t realize is what goes on behind these gated communities and inside some of these big homes is the same as what is going on everywhere. Parents are looking for answers as to how to raise difficult teens.
Many remain silent because of judgment they receive from others. Maybe instead of pointing fingers or shaming each other we should start talking and helping our neighbor when we realize they have a teen in trouble.
It’s easy to sit back and say this could never happen to you, especially if you never had a child, or your child is still young — however teen-hood has a way of playing tricks on your predictable life. Although many have had the typical ride of a bumpy teenager – some of us had to take the hard-way around.
It’s okay, we paved the road for you to learn from.
I had a good teen – she was/is my everything. She made some really bad choices. I had to make the leap to outside help after exhausting all my local resources (and her short stay at grandma’s).
Making the decision to send your child to a residential therapy is not easy. You don’t give birth to your children with the expectation that you will be sending them away before their college years. You feel, as a parent, like a failure.
I made a lot of mistakes that I hope parents now are learning from. With the conversation rising on mental health, don’t be afraid to advocate for your teen if they need the extra step that mine did.
With summer nearly over and an impending cold season on the horizon, millions of Americans will self-treat their symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine that contains dextromethorphan (DXM). While DXM can do wonders for a cough when taken according to labeling instructions, it can also be abused to get “high” when consumed in large amounts.
Abusing DXM poses serious health implications and causes concerning side effects such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, rapid heartbeat and disorientation. Despite the risks, one out of every 30 teens reports abusing DXM and one out of three teens knows someone who has abused the substance.
Only together can we ensure the health and safety of our teens. So, after checking your shelf, make sure to share these tips and spread awareness about OTC cough medicine abuse with other parents in your community. For additional medicine abuse prevention resources and parenting tips, don’t forget to visit Stop Medicine Abuse.
Contributor: Blaise Brooks is a mother of one, caregiver of two, accountant and community advocate. Blaise is also a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org, working to spread the word about cough medicine abuse with other parents. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.
You already have a number of rules for your teen. From keeping his room reasonably clean to helping feed the pets and doing homework before watching television at night, your teen is used to living with certain boundaries. So why shouldn’t this extend to his cellphone usage?
Now that you have bought your teen his first smartphone, you should create a cellphone contract to make sure he knows the boundaries. Here are a few reasons why:
Why a Contract
Unfortunately, smartphones can be used in ways that are less than wise. Your teen may be tempted to text and drive or post messages or photos that are inappropriate. After all, they are young and will probably try to bend the rules. But when you take the time to write out and sign a list of expected behaviors, everything is clearly set up in black and white. Your teen might try to say he forgot a certain cellphone rule, but when you can bring out the contract as a reminder, it will take a bit of the wind out of your child’s sails.
Include What Type of Phone is OK
Your teen may have visions of the latest and greatest smartphone, but you and your wallet will have the final say. In the contract, spell out what types of cellphones your teen is allowed to have, including any information you wish to add about acceptable price ranges, payment and data plans, and other features. You may not want to get the newest version of a smartphone, but rather go a step down to save a little money without sacrificing the quality. For example, instead of buying your teen the new Galaxy Note7, go for the Galaxy Note5 that still has many of the same features. If your son is contributing some allowance money to the payment, add that to the contract, too.
Decide if You Approve of Internet Access
Your teen might not need a phone that can access every last website on the internet. If you feel like he should be able to text his friends and call you for rides but not be tempted to buy things from online retailers, that is totally fine. But if you think he might need it for school research or for checking email, you might allow Wi-Fi access when necessary. No matter what you choose, write it down in the contract so there are no misunderstandings later.
Make a List of Rules and Consequences
As for how to fill out the rest of the cellphone contract, sit down with your teen and go over whatever rules you feel strongly about. These may include things like “No texting friends after 9 p.m.,” “No loaning your smartphone to friends” and “No texting or driving, period.”
The consequences should also be very clear. Some examples may include “If my grades drop to a C or lower, I will lose my phone until they are back up” or “I will lose smartphone privileges for a day if I play games on my phone before finishing my homework.”
This is a difficult question that many parents have to face on a daily basis. Parents who spend a great deal of time with their teenagers are often tuned into what is normal behavior and what is not.
However, even parents who are actively involved in the daily activities of their teenagers may overlook – or subconsciously deny – the earliest signs of a substance abuse problem.
Some of the clues that your teenager may exhibit when using drugs or alcohol are fairly subtle, but others are rather obvious:
• Many hours spent alone, especially in their room; persistent isolation from the rest of the family. This is particular suspicious in a youngster who had not been a loner until now.
• Resistance to taking with or confiding in parents, secretiveness, especially in a teenager who had previously been open. Be sure that your teenager is not being secretive because every time he tries to confide in you, you jump on him or break his confidence.
• There is marked change for the worse in performance and attendance at school and/or job or other responsibilities as well as in dress, hygiene, grooming, frequent memory lapses, lack of concentration, and unusual sleepiness.
• A change of friends; from acceptable to unacceptable.
• Pronounced mood swings with irritability, hostile outbursts, and rebelliousness. Your teenager may seem untrustworthy, insincere or even paranoid.
• Lying , usually in order to cover up drinking or drug using behavior as well as sources of money and possessions; stealing, shoplifting, or encounters with the police.
• Abandonment of wholesome activities such as sports, social service and other groups, religious services, teen programs, hobbies, and even involvement in family life.
• Unusual physical symptoms such as dilated or pinpoint pupils, bloodshot eyes, frequent nosebleeds, changes in appetite, digestive problems, excessive yawning, and the shakes.
These are just a few of the warning signs that can be recognized.
• Be careful not to jump to the conclusion that your teenager may be using when you see such behavior.
• Evaluate the situation.
• Talk to your teenager.
• Try to spend time with her so that she feels that she can trust you.
• By creating a home that is nurturing, she will understand that despite of unhealthy choices that she will always get the love and moral support that she deserves.
• Building a strong relationship with your teenager now will mean that in time of crises your love, support, wisdom, and experience won’t be shut out of your teenager’s decision making.
• If you have a suspicion that your teenager is involved in the use of drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to bring the subject up.
The sooner the problem is identified and treated, the better the chances that your teenager’s future will be safeguarded. Raising the subject will be easier if you already have good communication in the family. Discuss the ways in which you can seek help together. An evaluation by a substance abuse professional may be the key to understanding what is really going on with your teenager.
Contributor: Shawnda Burns, LCSW
If your teen has been struggling with substance abuse, be sure to seek help. If they refuse to get help, it may be time to consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information on this step.
However sadly even with the best of kids today, it happens.
Parents fear their teens using drugs – some parents even make excuses – “it’s just pot, I did it when I was a teen,” please understand – this is not the marijuana you did when you were a teen – in most cases marijuana can be laced with other substances (such as heroin) that can be addictive or even deadly.
When a teen gets desperate, it can call for desperate measures and that could potentially mean selling drugs.
Teens will turn to dealing for one of two reasons. To either support their habit or to make money. Either way, it benefits their drug use.
Parents should wake up and realize they have to intervene before this escalates to major drug trafficking and your child is not just arrested for possession but now is dealing with drug trafficking, selling to minors – and maybe more serious charges. Especially if your teen is nearing 18 years old, he/she could be charged as an adult.
Don’t be in denial. Don’t blame the other kids. This is your teen making the choices – and of course, the drugs causing negative behavior.
Ten tips help prevent substance abuse:
1.Communication is the key to prevention. Whenever an opportunity to talk about the risks of drinking and driving or the dangers of using drugs presents itself, take it and start a conversation.
2.Have a conversation not a confrontation. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, talk to her. Don’t judge her; instead, talk to her about facts behind the dangers of substance abuse. If your teen isn’t opening up to you, be sure you find an adolescent therapist who can help.
3. Addict in the family. Do you have an addict in your family? Sadly many families have been affected by someone who has allowed drugs to take over his or her life. With this, it is a reminder to your teen that you want him to have a bright future filled with happiness. The last thing you want for them is to end up like [name of addicted relative].
4. Don’t be a parent in denial. There is no teenager who is immune to drug abuse. No matter how smart your teen is, or athletic she is, she’s at risk if she starts using. I firmly believe that keeping your teen constructively busy, whether through sports, music or other hobbies, will put her at less risk to want to experiment. However don’t be in the dark thinking that because your teen is pulling a 4.0 GPA and is on the varsity football team that he couldn’t be dragged down by peer pressure. Go back to my number one tip—talk, talk, talk. Remind your teen how proud you are of him, and let him know that you’re always available if he’s being pressured to do or try something he don’t want to.
5. Do you even know what your teen is saying? Listen, or watch on text messages or emails, for code words for medication being abused or specific drug activity: skittling; tussing; skittles; robo-tripping; red devils; velvet; triple C; C-C-C-; and robotard are just some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse. Weed; pot; ganja; mary jane; grass; chronic; buds; blunt; hootch; jive stick; ace; spliff; skunk; smoke; dubie; flower; and zig zag are all slang for marijuana.
6. Leftovers. Are there empty medicine bottles or wrappers in your teen’s room or car (if they own one)? Does she have burn marks on her clothes or her bedroom rug, and ashes or a general stench in her room or car? Be sure to check all pockets, garbage cans, cars, closets, and under beds, etc., for empty wrappers and other evidence of drug use. Where do you keep your prescription drugs? Have you counted them lately? Teens and tweens often ingest several pills at once or smash them so that all of the drug’s affect is released at once.
7. Body language. Tune into changes in your teen’s behavior. Are his peer groups changing? Is he altering his physical appearance or suddenly lack hygiene? Are his eating and/or sleeping patterns changing? Does he display a hostile, uncooperative, or defiant attitude, and is he sneaking out of the house? Are you missing money or other valuables from your home?
8. Access to alcohol. Look around your home—are alcoholic beverages (liquor, beer, or wine) easily accessible? Teens typically admit that getting alcohol is easy, and that the easiest place to get it is in their own homes. Be aware of what you have in the house and if you suspect your teen is drinking, lock it up! Talk to them about the risks of drinking, especially if they are driving.
9. Seal the deal. Have your teen sign a contract stating that she promises never to drink and drive. The organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving), www.saddonline.com provides a free online contract you can download. It may help her pause just the second she needs, to not get behind that wheel.
10. Set the example, be the example. What many parents don’t realize is that they are the leading role model for their teen. If your teen sees you smoking or drinking frequently, what is the message you are sending? At the same time, many adults enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, and the teen needs to understand that they are adults and there’s a reason the legal drinking age is 21.
A very important piece of advice I share on a daily basis, which I learned the hard way, is that you have to be a parent first, even if it means your teen hates you. The hate is temporary. Your teen’s future, health, and safety depend on your parenting. Friendship will come later—and it does!
If your teen is struggling with substance abuse issue, it is imperative you get them help. If you have exhausted local resources or they refuse to attend, please consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information.