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My child wants to use drugs. What should I do?


Part 1: My child wants to use drugs and doesn’t care about what I say. What should I do?—Concerned Parent, FL

Shayna Answers:

Dear Readers and Concerned Parent,

Readers, now and then I get questions from parents who need help. This is one of those times. Read on for a chance to see how much the things you face can affect your parents, and how much your parents want to help you stay on track physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Concerned Parent, you have a close enough relationship that your child has opened up about an activity that usually blindsides parents and is sometimes discovered only after it has wreaked havoc. Even though it might seem like your child doesn’t care about your opinion, maybe how you’re saying what you’re saying—not the message—is what they’re rejecting.

Think about the way you’re talking to your child. Could what you’re saying be perceived as irrational, accusative, or hurtful? Any communication that may make them feel stupid or uncomfortable can cause them to shut down
instead of engaging you in conversation.

Try using a different tactic to talk to your child. Since household responsibilities and other children at home can be distracting, offer to take them out to eat. This will give you the chance to talk alone. Start talking about other things first. Ask about what friends are up to, sports, or church events. Talking about friends and other activities may eventually bring you to the topic of drugs or other hot-button issues.

Even though you may not approve of some of what you hear, this is an opportunity to demonstrate that you can be trusted to listen and provide guidance without yelling at your child or punishing them. Listen to your child and try to think about their perspective in the situation.

Staying calm and listening may not be easy, since a negative reaction may be exactly what is warranted. Because your child may already be expecting you to react negatively, it’s important to first validate the positive decisions your child is making or trying to make.

For example, you could say, “Wow, I had no idea that you had to deal with so much pressure from your friends to smoke weed. I’m impressed that you’ve been able to resist this long.” Or, “It sounds like a lot of people around you are making negative decisions. I know you’ve made some mistakes too, but I’m proud of you for trying to do better.”

After you’ve validated the position that your child is speaking from, then offer possible solutions to the situation and reinforce the positive decisions you want them to make.  Focus on building them up, not condemning them by saying something such as “I know how strong you are, so no matter what anybody else does, you don’t have to follow.”

Even if your child doesn’t respond the way you hope, it doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Sometimes teenage growth is a combination of exploration, making mistakes, and listening to parental guidance. Keep talking to your child and reinforcing your love for them. Ideally, your child will open up more about their desire to use drugs, so you can then understand where their desire is coming from and provide more focused help.

Maybe your child is seeking more discipline and boundaries in their life. We’ll talk about that next week.

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