Our 17 yr old daughter won't stop smoking pot – which she does daily to get through school. We have taken away privileges. Do we just ignore and ask her to leave once she's 18?
This is a tricky subject and different for every family, but I truly believe that every teenager who wants to get marijuana, can.
Therefore, I always tell moms & dads, it is extremely difficult to try to shield a teenager today from being exposed to marijuana because it is so prominent. I believe parents, and what I do with many of my clients, need to spend their efforts trying to equip teenagers to make the right choices, so when they are exposed to it, they will choose not to get high.
No matter how strict a curfew you have, how often you drug test your teenagers, or whether they are an athlete, a scholar or a jock, your teenager will always find a way to use marijuana if they want to. They key is making sure they do not want to.
1. Ask Questions—Before you dive into trying to equip them with the power to ‘say no,’ try to gauge their level of involvement. Ask the tough questions. I am not saying to grill them before they go out, but showing them you are paying attention and are very involved is important and you can get an idea of how much or how little you know about their social life.
2. Build their Esteem—If you cannot prevent them from encountering marijuana, you can empower them to make the right choices. I do believe there is peer pressure to use pot. It is hard to say no when it feels like everyone is doing it and you know that if you get high, you have the chance to be friends with that jock, who would never talk to you otherwise. So encourage them to do esteem building activities, like running for student council, working out, or doing a hobby and help them be proud of who they are by engaging in their unique qualities.
3. Don’t Lecture—If you think we are doing marijuana, dabbling in marijuana, seeing it at parties or just want to talk to us about it, please talk, don’t lecture. I promise, we have heard all of the negative sides to smoking weed in health class. As soon as you start lecturing us, we stop listening. So, instead of approaching it like a health teacher, ask questions and let us come to our own conclusion, usually we know what is right or wrong, and if we feel like you are talking to us about it, not at us, at least we will come to you if we have questions or problems down the road.
4. Find Out Why—This is tricky, it is important to understand that, today, marijuana is not only for ‘the stoner’ teenagers. All different kinds of teenagers are doing it and it has become a sort of social unifier. A drama teenager and a jock might not hang out at a party, but if they get to the party and share a joint, they are friends. It is really important to understand this new social aspect and that it permeates all kinds of peer groups.
5. Listen to the Answers—Most times, when I hear moms & dads talk to their teenagers, parents do ask questions, but then answer the questions themselves. A question, and then silence will get you a long way. For some reason, even after we have already given a one-word answer, if we feel you are still waiting for more, we either get nervous (a sign we are hiding something) or splurge and let our mouths go. Also look at your teenager’s immediate facial response as soon as you ask a question. We are not as good at hiding our emotions and you might be able to gauge a lot by watching our reaction.
6. Look at Their Friends—I constantly hear the “well, it’s not my teenager because…” response when I do speaking engagements on this topic. If you feel your child is either an angel or unreadable, look at their friends behavior. Have they gotten in trouble? Are they the ones who make the decisions where to go on the weekends? Friend’s behavior means everything in the world of marijuana.
7. Offer Other Activities—When you talk to your parent friends, make sure everyone is on the same page with curfews and activities. If there is a semi-formal or prom coming up, offer to host a substance-free after party, host bbqs and movie nights. I think many teenagers get high simply because there is nothing better to do.
8. Offer Other Options—As horrible as it sounds, if your teenager wants to get high, they will find a way. Make sure that they know never to drive high. If you think they are smoking and you cannot do anything about it (sometimes it happens), then at least tell them to call you if they are ever in a situation and they will not get in trouble. Many, many, teenagers drive high or drunk and this worries me more than anything. If you do not think they would call you, then encourage an aunt, uncle, priest, rabbi, teacher, friend to be their secondary support system if they ever need to be bailed out or get a ride home.
9. Talk to Your Friends and Other Parents—Get informed about the marijuana culture in general and in your specific community. I post frequently on this topic and what teenagers are doing right now, so you can stay a step ahead. I highly recommend getting together with parent friends and talking about what your teenagers are doing and sharing notes about what they think is going on.
10. Give Other Reasons Not to Use Pot—I constantly talk to teens about smoking and always give them non-health class reasons not to use pot which, I believe, appeal more to their interests. I always stress to girls the aging effects of smoking. I spoke to a group of 16 year-olds about ‘anti-partying’ and gave them my reasons not to use pot (they were shocked, because they were so a-typical):
- At a prestigious internship interview, a friend got offered the job and when they asked for a drug test, he knew couldn’t pass it and they took back the offer.
- Gives you lip wrinkles.
- Lowers your sperm count.
- Make allergies worse.
- Makes you taste bad when you kiss.
- The pot makes your teeth yellow.
- You never know who is going to take an incriminating picture and post it somewhere, or use it against you later.
11. Give Them Excuses—Ok, so maybe they have the self-esteem to say no, and maybe they agree with the reasons above to say no, but sometimes people will not let up with the “just take one hit!, Just try it!” So, think of excuses for them to use. Here are some that I have given and tell teens to use:
- I am on a diet, it gives me uncontrollable munchies and I am not giving up my summer goal for one hit.
- I hate the taste.
- I have dance class/practice/a run tomorrow and I can never perform as well.
- It makes me really sleepy, and I am no fun when all I want to do is sleep.
- It makes me sneeze.
- My parents are waiting for me when I get home, and they will smell it/notice it.
- My parents/job/school/coach drug test me.
- Offer to be the reason! My parents told me to clearly tell people that they were watching me like hawks and that I would get in big trouble if I used pot. This almost always works, because everyone understands strict parents. So tell them to use you as the reason…after all there is some truth to it!
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents