If you read this because you want to prepare yourself for the possibility that your child might one day get caught using drugs, good for you. If you read this because you suspect that your child is already using, you are not alone. I hope some of these tips will help you as you navigate these rough waters.
Why Do Kids Use Drugs?
Genetic factors, self-esteem issues, poor impulse control, and weak parental attachments are all ingredients that often play a part in whether or not a child will experiment with drugs. Mix a few of these factors together and the probability that your child will develop an addiction (and doing so at a faster rate) increases. To some kids who struggle on multiple levels, the pros outweighs the cons when it comes to using. Other kids have plenty of reasons to stay clean and still feel drawn to it.
1. Speak to your child about drug use—and start early. Voice your opinion without lecturing (if possible). Ask your child what she knows and how she feels about the subject. By having an open dialogue with your child, and letting her speak freely, you give her a chance to formulate and organize her thoughts, worries and strategies as she talks.
2. Get to know her friends. Who does she look up to in school and why? Kids search for role models. The friends your child is drawn to say a lot about the person she wishes to become.
3. Help your child find her passion. Growing an interest increases self-esteem.
4. You might consider giving your child an incentive not to use. In general I’m against bribing but can see making exceptions when trying to prevent drug use. A bribe kept me from smoking cigarettes during the 1970’s. That bribe gave me enough courage, a reason and an excuse to withstand peer pressure. The decision not to smoke when smoking was the norm taught me that it was possible to swim against the tide and win. It gave me a reference point and experience in saying no.
Signs Your Child Might Be Using
Some signs of drug use are obvious (like her clothes or room smelling like pot). Other clues to look for are:
1. Changes in sleeping or grooming habits.
2. School related concerns such as declining grades and frequent tardies and truancies.
3. Behavioral changes (usually for the worse although a few kids become overly helpful and almost too good in order to cover up the fact that they are using).
4. Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
5. Dropping long-time friends seemingly over night.
6. Instant lack of money or a need to sell belongings for cash.
7. Items, clothing or money missing from siblings or parents.
8. Blood-shot eyes or bottles of eye drops in your child’s room or backpack.
Your first instinct might be to ask your child if she is using. However, users lie. Users with a tight parent-child bond lie too. Parents who have a close relationship with their kid might actually be more inclined to trust their child which works in the child’s favor.
When it comes to keeping your kid safe, her privacy becomes secondary. This can be tough on a parent as you are forced to go from being the parent you want to be to the parent you have to be.
You can start by searching your child’s room, her clothing, her car etc. You can take apart dressers, containers, search inside shoes, inside lighting fixtures, behind paintings and posters, search diaries and social networking accounts.
You could also buy fairly inexpensive test kits online, ask her to pee in a cup and within minutes you will have your answer. Users can be very crafty when it comes to faking test results, so if you are fairly sure that your child is using, you have to actually watch her perform the test (especially after the initial test when she is aware that she is being monitored). Make sure to test randomly with shorter and longer intervals between testing. You probably feel terrible having to do this but many children secretly welcome being tested. It gives them a reason to say no when offered drugs. Besides, for many long-term users, using is no longer a choice. They no longer have the ability to quit and they need for you to intervene.
Positive? Now What?
Do your best to keep lines of communications open. While going through this, your child needs her home base to remain as stable as possible. This means expressing that love you feel for your child in different and expanded ways by being calm yet firm and not giving in or getting involved in discussions that you know are non-productive and destructive.
If your child uses infrequently or if you caught it early, you might get by with counseling, frequent testing and a complete change of friends.
If your child is a frequent pot smoker and still tests positive after more than six weeks (which indicates fairly heavy regular or continued use) a treatment program might be the best solution. As long as your child is under the age of eighteen, you have time to research and find the best program possible for your child. A good place to start is calling your school counselor, a parent support group or your child’s doctor.
However, if your child is over eighteen, she is old enough to refuse treatment. Signing a no-use contract that includes rules regarding testing or voluntary treatment with a four month warning to move out should she fail to comply with your rules, is one option available.
Nobody prepares you for the day when you might have to take drastic actions and give your child an ultimatum. The stress is enough to tear the most solid family unit apart. During times like these, it’s often necessary for professionals to take over, leaving you with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Please don’t beat yourself up. If a parent’s love and care were enough to keep a child drug free, there would be very little drug use in this world.
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