Finding marijuana in your teen’s room is a shock and can quickly turn into an explosive situation that spirals out of control. Anger, betrayal, disappointment and fear for the child’s safety and future are natural feelings. It is hard to look at the situation objectively or constructively.
“Many parents are terrified and furious at the same time,” notes Marci B. Stiles, licensed professional counselor and founder Positive Outlook Counseling. “They lose sight of the big picture which is to help their teen stop using drugs.”
Stiles lists seven strategies for distressed parents to help manage the situation:
- Don’t Accuse. Kids become defensive and shut down when they are accused, just like adults. Ask your child to explain why he or she has a bag of pot in their drawer or a bong in their closet in a calm manner. Remember, you are the adult and your child feels safer when you are in control. Their health and safety are the biggest priority.
- Talk to not at. This is not the time for lectures. Your teen knows drugs are illegal and is well aware of your stand on taking them. Your goal is to open a dialog. Yelling, cursing, calling him or her names will cause your teen to shut down.
- Listen. You’ve asked your child some questions. Now stop talking. During a natural pause, you can feedback what you’ve heard to your teen. “You hate school and all your friends use pot all the time.” You are not commenting – “That’s the dumbest excuse ever!” – Or giving advice – “You just need to buckle down!” This is about understanding and building trust with your teen.
- Ask Questions. Your teen is going to be wary, probably scared and feeling guilty. They won’t say a lot at first. Use your questions to find out more about your child rather than to make them feel bad. Try to find out the extent of the problem. Is it a one-time thing? A daily habit? Is your child selling it to his or her friends? When does he or she smoke?
- Get Help. Depending on the extent of the problem, your teen may need counseling or rehab. There are often underlying reasons your teen tried drugs in the first place. They may be feeling pressures you don’t know about.
- Be Honest. Build Trust. The goal of your discussion with your teen is to stop the potentially dangerous behavior and to reconnect with them. The best way to build trust is to be honest and caring with them. You can love them and care for them without condoning the behavior. Being calm and focused on your child and their behavior will tell your teen they can trust you even during a very stressful family situation. If you tried drugs as a teen, this may give you insight into your child’s behavior. If relevant, talk about why you started and why you stopped. Share your fears and concerns in a non-punishing way.
- Establish Natural Consequences. Your teen has broken the rules – yours and society’s – and there are consequences for this. You may be tempted to punish your child severely. A more effective strategy is to let them experience the natural consequences of their behavior. They have lost your trust and needs to rebuild it. Would you give a stoned person the keys to a car? Would you let a potentially stoned person go to a party where there might be drugs? Most teens take drugs with their friends. If your teen was smoking after school, should they be allowed to participate in after-school activities? Are you going to call their friends’ parents and warn them that their teen might also be smoking pot? In addition to establishing consequences based on love and concern for their safety, give your teen a path to rebuilding trust. Smoking pot was a mistake, but one from which he can recover.
“One of the best ways to help your teen to not take drugs in the first place is to keep an honest, open and non-judgmental line of communication open,” notes Stiles. “That way, when they are stressed or feeling down or overwhelmed, they will go to you, not the drugs or alcohol.
Start where you are today and work to build trust. When you are calm, try to remember yourself as a teenager with all its insecurities, hormones, school and peer pressure. Your teen will make mistakes. As their parent, you are there to help him learn and recover from them – even something as serious as drugs and alcohol. I regularly see families in my practice that become stronger after working through a crisis like this.”
If you would like to schedule an appointment about rebuilding trust after discovering drugs, contact Marci Stiles LPC at 972-733-3988 or book your appointment online at http://www.positiveoutlookcounseling.com/schedule-dallas-counseling-appointment/
Positive Outlook Counseling
Marci B. Stiles, MA, LPC-S, NBCC
Bent Tree Plaza
16610 North Dallas Parkway
Dallas TX 75248
Positive Outlook Counseling services range from individual counseling to family therapy to marriage counseling services. Marci Stiles specializes in individual, family, marriage and troubled teen therapy.