My son is 13. He has admitted to me that one of his friends smokes cigarettes and marijuana. Should we continue to allow them to spend time together? How can we make sure that this boy doesn't influence our son?

It's a good thing that your son feels comfortable enough to tell you something about a friend that he knows you don't want to hear! You should feel proud of him and of yourself for developing a good relationship.

Since you know this about this boy, you may want to casually check to see if this boy smells like smoke or looks stoned when he is in your home. You will also want to be able to control the time your son spends with him. That is - invite him to your house, invite him to go with your family to a game, to the beach, to a fast food restaurant....Let your son spend some limited other time with him too but continue to hug him when he gets home (to smell for smoke, etc. as well as to remind him that you love him).

Don't assume that this boy will influence your son, assume that your son will influence him - and tell your son that you have that much faith in him. At other times, reiterate your family's rules about smoking and drug use (not in relation to the other boy, but just in general).

This advice applies to all your son's friends now and in the future - at least through high school. It sounds like you're on the right track already! Enjoy your this time with your son!

My son will be 16 soon. I don't seem to know how to communicate with him anymore. When I try talking to him about his goals, plans, dreams, and fears, he doesn't respond. He doesn't seem to really have any set plans for the future. Any suggestions?

Sixteen year-old boys are not easy to talk with! You aren't the first to notice this - so take comfort.

Your son is probably feeling a little (or a lot!) overwhelmed with the approaching end of childhood and onset of adult responsibility. Try to back down a bit - talk about plans for this summer and classes he will take in the fall rather than long-term goals and plans. If college is an assumption or a strong possibility, make plans together to take a college tour of 3-5 schools that are within his academic and financial range.

You can also alleviate the pressure by asking about his friends and their plans for the next couple of years. Let him talk about them instead of himself. You'll learn a lot.

Try to help him find a summer job that he'll enjoy but which may also illustrate the value of continued education. Above all, let him know you love him and will help him any way you can without making his life choices for him. Good luck!

My daughter is suspected of using marijuana. She is only 14 years old. Is there a test that my wife and I can give her to see if she tests positive and where do we get that?

There are various home drug-testing kits on the market which you can purchase at your local drug store. You may want to read about the various types of tests and their advantages and drawbacks before you purchase one. Some good sites for information are www.firstcheckfamily.com and www.phamatech.com.

Be aware of the small possibility of a false positive result with the tests you read at home yourself. If you get a positive result, you may want to confirm it with a more sophisticated test that is read at a lab. Also know that all tests do not test for the same substance. Be sure to read the label to get the appropriate test.

In the case of a positive test, you should seek additional professional help from a qualified physician or counselor familiar with adolescent drug use. Do your research on locating that person first so you'll have someone to turn to if you need them.

Also, know the facts! This will help discuss the risks with your children and assures us that we are giving them current and correct information. Don't rely on what you knew (or thought you knew), 15 or more years ago.

I heard that there has been an increase in the number of young people using prescription and over the counter drugs to get high. What kinds of drugs are being abused in our area and what are the dangers of these drugs?

You are right to be concerned. This is a serious threat that has been increasing in our local area. Many people, parents and teens alike, often think this is a less dangerous form of drug abuse because these medicines are legal and can be prescribed by a doctor or purchased without a prescription from a pharmacy. Just because these drugs are legal, does not make them any safer.

Anyone who has heard the commercials about prescription drugs know that they can have many, and often serious, side effects, even when used as prescribed. This is the reason doctors monitor any patient when they start a new prescription. When they are used outside this doctor-patient relationship they become extremely dangerous.

Consequences and effects of the drugs vary widely, depending upon the type of drug abused. Most commonly abused prescription drugs include prescription opiates used as painkillers, including Oxycontin, hydrocodone, Vicodin and others. Another drug that is known to be dangerous and addictive that also falls into the opiate category is heroin! Obviously, heroin is not prescribed, but this example is provided to help you see how dangerous and addictive these prescription painkillers can be.

Over-the-counter drugs abused include cough and cold medicines. For more information on over-the-counter drug abuse, see www.fivemoms.com, which was started by 5 moms who came together with a common cause: teenagers abusing cough medicine to get high.

Is random drug testing a good way of keeping my kids from using drugs?

Drug testing has been used by some parents as a successful part of their drug prevention strategy. By itself, it won’t necessarily keep your kids drug-free, and you must do it right if you hope to have it add something useful to your arsenal.

Having the drug-test kit hanging over your kids’ head as a way to “catch” them or punish them will set up an environment of mistrust and may in fact backfire, angering your teen and damaging your relationship. Kids who have strong relationships with their parents are shown to be less likely to use substances.

While having conversations with your teen, let them know that they can use you as an excuse to not use drugs. Tell them you will keep a drug test kit in the house and that you will use it if you ever feel you need to. Also explain how they can use this fact to get themselves out of a sticky situation. The response “No, I can’t. My parents have a drug test and I’ll definitely get caught” not only gives them a reason to say no, it will also likely change the subject to how strict you are. Let your kids know you don’t mind being the “bad guy.”

My 19 year old son lives at home and commutes to college. I need to talk to him about marijuana, and tell him some reasons why he shouldn't smoke marijuana. What should I tell him?

Let's make this nice and simple.
#1 - it is against the law
#2 - it is against the rules of our household
#3 - it is a mind-altering addictive substance (it changes the way your brain works)
#4 - it affects your short term memory needed to learn in school
#5 - it has long-term consequences for the lungs, heart, brain and reproductive organs
#6 - it impairs your ability to safely operate a car

For more detailed information, visit our “Get the Facts” section.

Our 14 year-old son is a good kid but when he's out with his friends, they drink beer. I think he'll outgrow this phase as I did. My wife thinks we should send him to his grandparents for the summer because she's opposed to his drinking. Can you help?

Good for you for trying to come to consensus on this important issue! Adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop problems with alcohol use and dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older. So your wife has adequate reason to be concerned.

You say he "only" drinks beer. One 12-oz. beer has the same amount of alcohol as a shot (1.5 oz.) of distilled spirits or 5 oz. glass of wine. Basically "a drink is a drink is a drink". If he's out nearly every night, that's a lot of alcohol. There are some scary immediate consequences including traffic crashes, arrest, fighting, falls and drowning that are clearly associated with alcohol. Are you really ready to take those risks?

Then let's talk about the law. It is illegal. You're the parent now no matter what you did as a kid. It's really your job to model respect for the law. Come on, Dad, help him and his friends think of other things to do - take them to a ball game, go hiking, camping, find other things for them to do and begin to help them learn that what they do will effect their future....

Sending him to his grandparents for part of a summer might be fun for him and his grandparents but shouldn't be a punishment or a way of restricting him. First of all, he can find a way to drink anywhere. Second, it doesn't address the concern for his current and future health or the consequences of breaking the law. You and your wife can come up with some other ideas for keeping his summer busy too.

Finally, talk to him. Explain why you are both concerned and cannot let him continue to abuse alcohol. Make a plan for how you can monitor his behavior and consequences for breaking your rules, then stick to it.

What can I do if I suspect my child is using alcohol or other drugs?

Trust your instincts. You know your son/daughter best. If you think something is going on, you’re probably right. Don’t ignore the problem. Take action. Talk to your child about your concerns. (Visit http://timetoact.drugfree.org for suggestions.) Find local resources for help, and get your child the help he/she needs.

Resources:

  • Call your school counselor (www.rcas.org)
  • Call 211 to find local resources
  • Connect with the Advisor in your school with Lifeways, Inc. (605) 716-6555
  • Parent resources and classes - Contact Lifeways for more information (605) 716-6555
  • Library of prevention and parenting materials - Youth & Family Services Prevention Resource Center (605) 342-1593
  • Parenting section of the Rapid City Public Library - Many materials have been placed in the library by ASAP

For more local resources, visit our Resources page