The Teenage Years

Saturday, 07 February 2009 12:32

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Parents of children 13-17 years old sometimes find it difficult to tell the difference between the signs of substance abuse and “typical” teenage behavior. If there is no reason to suspect drinking or drug use, do not assume that it is occurring. Not all adolescents drink or use drugs.


However, if you suspect that your child may be using drugs or alcohol, start by discussing substance use in general.  Does your child think that some use is OK, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand? That adolescence is a time of experimentation during which substance use should be encouraged?  Or does your child think that teens should be discouraged from experimenting because the behavior involves risks? Be sure to listen carefully.  Share your own views only after you have fully heard from your child. 

Some signs of drug use include:

  • Red eyes. Someone using marijuana may carry eye drops (to clear up redness in eyes) or drug paraphernalia such as pipes or rolling papers.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Extreme hunger or sleepiness
  • Change in appearance and or music. These may be signs that your child is succumbing to peer pressure and all these should serve as warning signs that your child is in danger of falling into the same kind of peer pressure when it comes to drugs.
  • Change in friends or peer group
  • Tardiness and/or truancy. Call your child's school from time to time and ask about your child attendance record. Take the initiative here!
  • Changes in personality such as isolating from family, cursing.
  • Paranoia. This is one of the most common signs of drug abuse and one of those signs you don't have to look hard to see.
  • Lying. If your child is experimenting with drugs, he/she will lie to cover it up. If you wonder whether or not your child is telling the truth, there is a good chance that your instincts are right. Drugs are an all too real possibility.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Excessive spending/money disappearing. If your child constantly needs money or if money keeps vanishing from your purse, you need to talk with your child.

If you suspect that your child maybe using drugs, there is help. Call the “Centre for Counselling & Addiction Support Alternatives” CASA at 427-5953 for further details.

Parents must be ever vigilant with their children, especially during the teenage years when children are more susceptible to deviant behavior as they try to fit in. Monitoring is an effective way you can help them to remain drug-free and an important thing to do — even if you don't suspect that your teen is using drugs. The idea of "monitoring" may sound sinister, but it's actually a very simple idea that leads to great things. By monitoring, you know where your children are at all times (especially after school). You know their friends and you know their plans and activities. By staying in-the-know about your child's daily schedule, you're taking an important step in keeping your children drug-free.

Because monitoring conflicts with your children’s desire to be independent, they are likely to resist your attempts to find out the details of their daily whereabouts. Don't let this deter you from your goal. They may accept the idea more easily if you present it as a means of ensuring safety or interest in who she/he is and what she/he likes to do, rather than as a means of control.