The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 075 · Duration: 00:12:28
My Eagle Scout Son Is Smoking Marijuana
What do you do when your high performing teenager suddenly exhibits a forbidden behavior?
Today we’re answering a question from Nick of Omaha Nebraska, Nick writes:
Our 15 year old son has always done very well. He’s an athlete, he gets good grades and is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. Our 17 year old daughter as well has been successful academically, has many friends, interests and accomplishments, and will be applying to colleges this fall. We’ve made a lot of sacrifices for and investment in our children; private schools, coaching programs, tutoring, etc. and they have done well. We just found out that our daughter has a fake ID and our son has been smoking marijuana. My wife and I are shocked and hurt. We’ve completely trusted them and we consider this a betrayal of that trust. How can kids who have gotten so much and been shown a good way to live, be so ungrateful and sneaky? We don’t think there is a Control Battle going on so how do we account for their behavior and how should we deal with it? We are stunned and would like some guidance.
Thanks for your question Nick. It’s an important one because I’ve seen a lot of situations much like the one you are describing and I’ll explain what is most likely going on here in your family and how you can best address your crisis of awareness.
Notice my phrase, crisis of awareness? Nothing changed between when you were unaware of the situation with your kids and when you became aware of what they are doing. So the crisis you are experiencing, is over your awareness of what’s going on, so we don’t need to react with urgency. We can take some time, think things through and respond in a way that will be helpful to your teenagers. We always want to respond to problem behaviors from the perspective of helping our kids learn and grow.
Keep The Positive In Mind
Nick, you and your wife are fabulous parents and you are a very child-oriented family. You designed your life around your kids, and that’s terrific. Your kids have been doing really well and you have every reason to believe that they will continue to do well.
As parents, you’ve put a lot of healthy structures in place to support your kids, and clearly they’ve benefited enormously from those structures: good schools, tutoring, sports, scouts, etc.
So as parents, you’re doing a great job, but that doesn’t mean your kids will be or should be perfect kids and not make mistakes or make choices you don’t approve of.As parents, you’re doing a great job, but that doesn’t mean your kids will be or should be perfect kids and not make mistakes or make choices you don’t approve of.Click To Tweet
The goal is not that they don’t sometimes make poor choices. The goal, and an important value, is that children, teens, and even adults, learn and grow from their choices.
Managing A Crisis Of Awareness
How you handle your new awareness of some of their behavior can support their learning and growing, or it can set back learning and growing and maybe even confirm a fear of theirs, that they can’t ever disappoint their parents.
What do I mean by that statement? Why do I think they are afraid that they can’t ever disappoint their parents?
You have raised your kids with an abundance of support and I’m guessing with an abundance of expressed love and recognition of their successes.
Here are these kids, they get virtually everything they need to be happy and successful, their parents trust them. How do they say “no” to their parents? How do they fail or screw up? How do they express their individuality or separateness from their parents? How do they differentiate between pleasing their parents and pleasing themselves?
I’ve worked with many young adults in college who have gotten into trouble with alcohol and drug related behavior. Many of these young people were never in trouble during their high school years and were very strictly under parental supervision. When they went to college, they weren’t used to making their own decisions, having their own boundaries, or as we might call it, self-parenting. When I work with these young adults, I help them own their choices, be in-charge, learn the relationship between the choices they make and the outcomes they get. I help them learn that feeling good about themselves feels better than the feeling any drug will give them.
Taking Next Steps
Nick, your response to your kids needs to be a response that helps them learn and grow. If you take this as a personal betrayal, you will confirm their fears, that they can’t ever do anything wrong and if they do, they will hurt their parents. Yes, they violated your trust, as teenagers will sometimes do, and now you have the opportunity to respond in a way that
- helps them know they don’t have to be perfect to keep your love and support
- helps them learn and grow and prepare for young adulthood and college.
Here are some specific ideas for talking with your two teens about what you’ve learned. You can speak with them either individually or together, depending on whether they are friends and socialize together, or have different lives and don’t co-mingle friends so that their choices are very individual and not supported by each other.
Share what you’ve learned and ask questions about it. Not from a who, what, where, and when position, but from trying to learn generally about what they’re doing and their attitudes towards alcohol and marijuana use. Do they make a difference between use and abuse? Do they have examples of situations of abuse and do they have specific plans or ideas for not abusing? Is your daughter aware of the laws and risks of using a false ID. Penalties can be very severe including loss of driving privileges, fines, and more.
As we know, the adolescent brain tends to downplay the long term risks and consequences of short term decisions, so help your daughter think about what life would be like if she showed her ID and it were confiscated and given to the police as many drinking establishments will do.The adolescent brain tends to downplay the long term risks and consequences of short term decisionsClick To Tweet
The last thing I would do is to tell any parent to allow their teenager to drink or use marijuana, even in moderation. Parents can have a “no use” policy, but they can’t control their teens. Parents need to help them learn to do their own thinking and set their own limits.
Parents: yes, there is the opportunity for trouble around every corner but the solution to that is not to make sure our teens are scheduled every minute, that they go to the best schools and build resumes showing them to be high achievers with leadership and altruism so they can go to the best colleges. The solution is to help our children and teenagers discover themselves and believe in themselves. We can help them learn to make good personal decisions and learn and grow from their mistakes. And if we do this and hold faith in them, they’ll do just fine.
By the way, I went to the movies this weekend and saw the film Eighth Grade. Elsie Fisher was fabulous as Kayla, the painfully awkward 8th grader. Her father played by Josh Hamilton, does the amazing job of hanging in there with her through all her moods and rejecting behavior. For anyone who wants to remember those painfully awkward years or who is raising a young teen, I recommend it.
Thanks for tuning in this week listeners and special thanks to Nick for bringing us his question. If you are enjoying the Healthy Family Connections Podcast, take a minute and leave a review on iTunes for me. It will let others know that they too can benefit from tuning in.
Please remember, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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