Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this serious dilemma that more and more of us parents are facing every day. Kids are very, very good at hiding their substance use from their parents. They become very adept at lying and can be stoned out of their minds yet still look you in the eye and deny that there is anything going on.
Carefully monitoring the activities of your child, reading notes and letters they have written to their friends, listening to what they say on the phone, and getting caller ID, are some of the ways to stay informed on what your kids are up to. Write down the phone numbers you find on Caller ID. If your child decides to disappear for a night, you may very well be able to locate him/her by having a list of the numbers that have been calling your home over the last several months.
Some very technical parents have gone so far as to install small hidden recorder devices to their phones so that their child’s phone conversations can be taped. One young man that we know of had his entire conversation regarding a pending drug deal recorded by his father. As this young man was hanging up the phone, his father came into the room and asked his son to go with him to get help. Once they were in the car, the father popped the tape in the tape deck, and this boy had to sit there with his father and listen to himself making his drug plans. Confronted with the evidence, he entered a drug treatment program and is doing quite well today.
You may be aghast at the idea of going into your child’s room, looking through his drawers and pockets, and reading his letters, but if you suspect that your child is abusing substances, your vigilance may well save your child’s life.
Your Home Is Not A Democracy!
As much as you would like to give your kids freedom to say what goes on in your home, it is your home. You are paying for it, you have the final word. You are their parent above all else and sometimes this means you can’t be their friend. So, don’t try to be your child’s best friend, particularly if your child is severely acting out. Your child already has friends, he needs a parent! You should always oversee your own home and the last word on any situation should be your last word. However, in too many households, the kids are running the show, leaving their parents in the dust while they pursue their illicit activities. Your household should not be a democracy.
Keep in mind that your responsibility as a parent, first and foremost, is to keep your child safe! Therefore, if you need to conduct periodic investigations by snooping around their rooms, go for it. It is better that your children hate you in the moment, then are allowed complete freedom to participate in behaviors which can kill them.
Obtaining Important Information About Your Child From His Siblings
If all of the above methods have failed and your child is becoming worse, you can attempt to get information from your child’s siblings, if there are any, but this is not the best course of action and should be used only when you have exhausted all other methods.
However, involving brothers and sisters can create many problems within the family structure, so it’s best to leave them out of it if possible. Brothers and sisters are not always a lot of help in getting to the truth anyhow because they sometimes are also using and are fearful of you uncovering their own drug involvement. Instead of helping you, they will help their brother or sister continue to lie to you. It’s common in families for drug use to be a cooperative effort involving teen brothers and sisters, so when you go snooping to find out about one child, prepare yourself to find out some things about the others. In the case of younger or smaller siblings, they may be fearful of retribution for tattling on their older and stronger brother or sister and will be very reluctant to tell you anything for fear of their brother or sister coming after them when you aren’t around.
Other times, siblings may feel very resentful and disgusted about the amount of time you are spending trying to help their wayward brother or sister. These kids are following the rules and doing what they are supposed to be doing, but may feel very ignored by you and would just as soon see the offending sibling committed somewhere.
However, there are times when siblings can be a very good source of information. When a teen gets into extreme behaviors, it can be very frightening to their younger brothers and sisters, and by taking the younger sibling alone for a drive, buying them a soft drink and having a nonthreatening conversation with them, it is sometimes amazing what you will find out. They generally are anxious to tell you but want to be reassured that you won’t let their brother or sister know how you found out. It is vitally important that any information that you receive from a sibling be kept confidential, if only because you need to make sure the information is correct before confronting the wayward teen.
If a sibling tells you something very important, attempt to verify the information to make sure the sibling isn’t just trying to get even with your other child. If you can corroborate the sibling’s story with other things that have been going on, then you should decide what you are going to do with the information. It is not a good idea for your teen to know that another sibling “narked” on him. Therefore, when confronting your teen about what you have found out, it is best to present the teen with any other evidence you have discovered and keep your tattling sibling completely out of the picture.
Adolescent Treatment Programs and Counseling
If you have discovered that your child is doing something very dangerous to himself, then your best course of action is to immediately find a counselor to consult with. Be prepared, if you are in an HMO, to have a very long wait to get your first counseling appointment. If you feel your child is in an emergency, do not hesitate to bring him/her to an urgent care center or an emergency room. If the child’s problems are deemed an emergency, he/she may be admitted directly to an inpatient adolescent unit for stabilization. If not, the emergency room will make a referral to a psychiatrist, and this can sometimes help to put a teen on the fast track to getting an appointment with somebody who can help them, particularly if the teen is threatening suicide or is totally out of it from drug use (as my son was).