HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

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"I want my son back..."

Hello Mark,

When everything I've tried failed, I started digging deeper into your program (about 85% complete but still reiterating). I found the section on ODD & CD, which I believe is present to some degree, especially the CD; probably mild to moderate substance abuse (weed, booze & grandmas prescriptions). I even heard he has been "dealing", but cannot find any proof, like a stash or cash, so I question (but do not reject the possibility of) him dealing. There are a lot of kids here on weekends, which seems normal.

He is popular at school, could do better and has issues with only one teacher that I know of. I met her, and well, I don't care for her either to be honest. We are always on alert, especially when anything is confiscated (old bottle of whiskey) from his room or the smell of smoke under a heavy blanket of cologne. He in no uncertain terms asked for the bottle(s) back. I looked him in the eye and said "And I want my son back". I was positive it would lead to another episode of a wall getting kicked clear through, so I called his cousin (who has semi-recovered from the same issues) and asked if he would come up for a surprise visit (distraction).

It didn't work out, my son took off ...probably suspecting I was behind it. He came home later and went to bed, no damage done. He will not speak to me, let alone listen to anything I have to say. Chores, ha. There's a better chance of Obama turning Republican and saying Bush was my mentor.

I also suspect (but have no proof) that the neighbor (who is about 38 years old) is somehow involved with more than a friendly ear. There is good reason to believe there's "something up", but I don't want to go there or insinuate anything without reasonable/absolute proof. I wouldn't want someone doing that to me. I need an approach.

Hanging in there…

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Prepare for your son to be angry if he suspects you have searched his room. As paranoia is a common side effect of many drugs popular among teens, your son may already be worrying that you are spying on him or will find out about his problem. It's likely that he may notice that someone has entered his room and moved his belongings, so be ready to deal with a possible confrontation about the search.

Wait until you know that he will be out of the house for an extended period of time. The best time to do so is probably when he will be at school, though if your son happens to skip school, a behavior that tends to accompany drug abuse, be aware of the possibility that he may unsuspectingly come home expecting you to be at work. If possible, wait to perform the search until you are certain he will be away from his room several uninterrupted hours, such as a work shift or a weekend vacation.

Think about hiding places built into the structure of your house. Your son is likely to be familiar with any special spots in his room where there are special compartments or openings, such as crawl spaces, attic doors, loose flooring or drop ceiling panels. These are places in your son's room where drugs or drug paraphernalia might be hidden because he may think no one else in the household knows about them.

Check everywhere in the room where drugs could be hidden, such as under the bed or mattress, behind bookcases and inside desk drawers. Look inside the battery compartments of any electronics in your son's room, such as the TV, remote controls and portable CD players. Also check any pieces of furniture with hollow areas that could provide a hiding place for small stashes of drugs.

Wait to confront your son about your suspicions if you do not find any evidence. Though it may be necessary to bring up the issue regardless of whether or not you find drugs in your son's room, breaking his trust can also be dangerous and can cause him to isolate himself even further from you. Discussing potential drug abuse is a topic that must be handled very delicately.

Next… the “conversation”:

The major reason you have to have a conversation with your youngster about drugs and alcohol is because your kids need to be educated by you. They need to hear from their moms and dads that teen drug and alcohol use is not condoned in your family. They need to learn from their moms and dads about the consequences of drug and alcohol use. Most importantly, they need to be held accountable for their actions with drugs and alcohol use.

What happens if you suspect that your teen is already using alcohol and drugs? What do you say to them? The conversation is the same: moms and dads need to tell their kids that drug and alcohol use by teens is not allowed in your family.

The issue won't go away until you do something. You will get to the point where you can't deny that the problem exists. You'll have a continuous nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. You will simply have to acknowledge that your youngster has a problem — your youngster is using drugs and that won't get any better until you take action on your youngster's behalf. It is OK to ask for help. In fact, getting help may make it easier for you to have the conversation.

Sometimes the beginning of a conversation is harder than the middle — that dreaded conversation with your spouse or partner during which you acknowledge that you know your youngster has a problem with drugs or alcohol. That is a pretty profound conversation and is often laden with sadness, anger and regret. Denial plays a big part in that first conversation, as does finger-pointing. Neither reaction is helpful. The most important thing you can do is move on and figure out what you both can do to help your youngster.

This is a time for you and your spouse or partner to establish rules and consequences for your youngster if he or she uses drugs or alcohol. The rules should be simple: no drug or alcohol use by teens will be allowed in your family. The consequences should be straightforward and meaningful to the teen. Don’t go to extremes in setting consequences — choose those that you are able to carry out.

Practice the conversation with each other ahead of time. You may have to have a couple of “practice runs.” These conversations are not easy but they are worthwhile. Talking it over with your spouse/partner beforehand will help you keep a level head and speak to the issue.

Tell yourself that you won’t “lose it” with your youngster. Anger and hostility won’t get you anywhere in this conversation. Stay as calm as possible. Remember, you are the parent and you are in charge. Be kind, simple, and direct in your statements to your youngster. Above all, remember to tell your youngster that you love him or her! The conversation will not be perfect — no conversation ever is. Know that you are doing the right thing for your youngster. That’s what matters most!

Here are some suggested things to keep in mind when you talk to your youngster:
  • It makes you FEEL worried and concerned about them when they do drugs.
  • KNOW that you will have this discussion many, many times. Talking to your kid about drugs and alcohol is not a one-time event.
  • Tell your son that you LOVE him, and you are worried that he might be using drugs or alcohol.
  • You are there to LISTEN to them.
  • You KNOW that drugs may seem like the thing to do, but doing drugs can have serious consequences.
  • You tell him what you WILL do to help them.
  • You WANT them to be a part of the solution.

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