I have a 16-year-old daughter whom I have always spoken honestly to about sex, drugs, and the dangers that exist in the outside world. I feel that I have always done as I should to be a responsible parent. Recently, she told me she and her friends tried pot. I explained that this was not acceptable but assured her that we understand that peer pressure can be a horrible thing. We again discussed ways to avoid drugs and reinforced our love and devotion to her, but made it quite clear that this behavior is not in any way acceptable to us. To my surprise she started to cry.
I explained that I was thankful she was honest and glad that she felt she could talk to us. I knew she felt bad and told her there was no punishment because I knew she was feeling worse than she has in her life. I also explained that this is her first try and last - that punishment would be swift and stern if she ever thought of doing this again. My question is - what should my next move be, and how can I stop feeling as if I let her down in some way since she seemed to lack the will power to say No?
A very straightforward way to help her is to restrict her interaction with peers who use drugs. Steer her towards an alternative group of peers who are more involved in activities that require sharpness and aptitude. Tell her that she can blame the restriction on you (this will help her save face with peers), but that she absolutely may not be out with drug using friends.
It is not a moral failing that your daughter lacked the will power to say no. But it tells you that she may be at risk for addiction because she wanted to say no and couldn't. You will need to stay on this issue until you are sure that the two of you (or better yet, the whole family) have put enough structure in place for your 16-year-old to be safe.
It will take both of you (and maybe the whole family) to make a partnership so that she can say "no." Ask her how you can help her with his will power.
Let go of your guilt! It is healthy to feel guilt if you intentionally did something wrong, but it seems that you did the best you could at the time to prepare your daughter to refuse drugs. If you are busy soul-searching and self-blaming, you will miss a very important step, which is to continue developing your alliance with your daughter.
Make sure that adults supervise her whenever she goes out. This will require you to call the parents of her friends. It will give you a chance to network and to find other parents who are like-minded.
Mark Hutten, M.A.