5 Behavioral Signs that Your Teen is Using Drugs (Pt.2)

Missing money. Late night sneak outs. Sports practices skipped. A sudden and drastic change of wardrobe that your teen insists on wearing every single day.

These odd behaviors suggest something big is going on with your teen, some new event, struggle, or presence that is instigating these activities. While typical teenage development and dilemmas may explain your teen’s behavior, these actions might also be the cause of a more serious issue such as depression, bullying, or drug or alcohol use.

Substance use often manifests itself in behavioral signs, which are unfortunately often missed because teenagers naturally undergo so many other emotional, physical, and social transformations during adolescence. Discerning new behaviors that are spurred on by drug abuse from those that are natural can be difficult, but it is possible when you trust your instincts and know what behaviors to look for. Our previous article covered apathy and disinterest toward hobbies and responsibilities, the mysterious absence or presence of money, matters regarding clothing and appearance, and issues at school as possible signs of use, but there are a few more behaviors to monitor.

In particular, pay attention to changes in behavior that are radically different from your teen previously, appear very suddenly, and seem to have no valid explanation otherwise (based on your child’s answers when you ask her about it and your own observations/knowledge). The starker the contrast of your child’s behavior then versus now, the more likely something significant (potentially drugs or alcohol use) is going on behind the scenes.

These warning signs should always be of concern, whether due to drugs or something else. You owe it to your teen’s well-being to find out what that something else is.

#4) Up All Night, Sleep All Day

We all know teens like to sleep and, biologically, their growing bodies require more sleep than adults. In addition, their natural internal clocks are adjusted differently, hence why youths are prone to staying up later and sleeping in longer. So don’t be alarmed just because your teen plays video games deep into the night, and you seemingly need a blow horn to wake him up in the morning.

That said, pay attention to his usual sleep patterns, noting stark changes. Suddenly sleeping all the time or not at all, erratic sleep, or unexpected shifts in when your teen sleeps can all be a physical side effect of substance use. They could also be an indirect consequence of your teen’s changing schedule and habits due to doing drugs.

All teens, even the most unmotivated of them, have some sort of usual routine or schedule they generally stick to made up of their job, homework time, practices, chores, when they typically eat meals, maybe a TV show they like to watch that comes on at a certain time, etc. At the very least, they have school most of the year. You probably know the general flow of your child’s day and when he’ll be where.

However, drug use may lead your teen to drop or ditch his responsibilities and former hobbies, hang around new people who are up to no good, and frequently attend parties or other opportunities for risky behavior. His once-usual schedule will alter as a result. He might leave the house very early in the morning though he is not required to by school or other obligation or stay out increasingly late—perhaps all night—and do so consistently.

If your teen does not already have a curfew, set one. If he does, make sure you take it seriously. Be reasonable in the time you set but create and follow through on consequences should your teen break it.

Eventually, if your child displays sufficient trust and communication skills you can be lenient with the curfew from time to time, but start out enforcing it firmly, and even if you let your teen stay out later on special occasion, uphold the curfew most nights. Teenagers are much less likely to respect and follow a rule if you yourself treat it more like a mere suggestion.

Be wary of your child insisting on going out all the time, especially at unusual hours or on school nights. Furthermore, what is his reaction if you do not let him go? Is he surprisingly or uncharacteristically upset or angry, even when you have a very valid reason for saying no?

Finally, there’s sneaking out.

There are a multitude of reasons why your teen might secretly leave the house (typically at night) without informing you:

  • To rebel against overly-strict rules (or at least what she believes to be so)
  • To get an adrenaline rush from the act of sneaking out itself
  • To go to some place or engage in some activity she knows you disapprove of. This could include vandalism or pulling pranks around the neighborhood, going to a party, meeting up with a significant other or a banned friend, drinking, smoking, using drugs, etc. Basically, if your teen resorts to covertly leaving in the middle of the night to do something, it’s likely not a good or safe activity.

No matter the exact reason for it, sneaking out, like not coming home all night, is always a sign of accelerated risky behavior. It demonstrates a willingness to hide things from you and break rules to serve her own agenda, attitudes and actions similarly employed in dangerous activities like substance use.

Even if your teen leaves to do something harmless, such as simply take a walk or stargaze, sneaking out can be dangerous. Depending on the area you live, it might night be safe for a young person to be out at night, particularly if she is alone. Even in a perfectly safe neighborhood, if your teen were to get hurt or into trouble you wouldn’t know about it and might be difficult to reach if you are asleep.

#5) Dirty Little Secrets and Big Fat Lies

Secrets and lies, lies and secrets. The two go hand in hand, and if your teen is doing drugs under your nose, they are sure to follow.

These final two behaviors, by their very definition, can be tough to spot but are perhaps the most frequent behavioral patterns of teen drug use. Lying and keeping secrets commonly pervade through all of the other behavior signs on this list, serving as a way to cover up or diffuse suspicion about teens’ new actions and activities.

Sneaking out, refusing to inform you about their plans, hiding failing report cards, stealing money, dressing in a way to conceal physical side effects, owning disguised drug paraphernalia, and more are all deceptive methods teenagers employ to keep their substance use, as well the consequences of such, a secret. In addition, if your child abuses drugs he may be incredibly guarded about his friends, possessions, whereabouts, plans, and activities. He never openly discusses anything about them with you, and your questions usually elicit responses such as “butt out” or “it’s none of your business.” Your teen might claim his room is “off limits” and freak out if you so much as enter to put a pile of laundry on his bed.

Don’t confuse an increased—but perfectly normal for a developing young adult—desire for privacy with nefarious secrecy. Just because your teen requests that you knock before going into his room does not mean he is using that extra time to hide his stash.

Rather, notice when your teen seems to actively or blatantly go out of his way to avoid sharing something with you or becomes strikingly alarmed when you see or learn about something you weren’t supposed to. Why does he have that reaction? If the situation doesn’t immediately make sense on why it was kept secret, perhaps you don’t have all the pieces yet. Press your child for answers.

If keeping secrets is one side of a coin, lying is the other.

Teenagers doing drugs will often become frequent, almost chronic liars, because the continuation of their substance-using habits largely depends on parents not knowing about it. They will give misinformation about where they are going or have been, who they were with, what they were doing, the reasons for their actions, and everything in between. When you confront your teen about other potentially troubling behaviors—why she suddenly lost interest in softball or, out-of-nowhere, completely changed her style of clothes, for example—she fails to answer honestly, instead giving the responses she knows will keep her out of trouble.

But how are you supposed to discern truth from fiction?

Some parents might luck out and have a terrible liar for a child or simply have an uncanny ability to tell when their teen lies. For everyone else, be observant, trust your gut instincts, and take steps to learn the truth for yourself.

Even if your teen is scarily good at lying, as she lies more and more, constantly maintaining a web of lies will become incredibly difficult. At some point she’s bound to slip up. Her stories may conflict with one another or not add up. She might initially cover the truth with one lie but later forget what she said and say a new one. Keep your eyes open and take notice when these clues appear.

Oppositely, perhaps none of these indicators occur. You never catch your child in a lie and have no actual evidence of deception. Yet…something just doesn’t sit right.

Don’t dismiss that feeling as mere paranoia. Parental instinct is a powerful thing, and while you shouldn’t punish your teen without any proof, having that reaction is a sign you should have a serious discussion with your child about drugs and alcohol and consider adopting more elaborate methods to see if there are lying and secrets going on.

Follow up on whatever plans your teen told you he has. For instance, drive by the restaurant he said he was going to see if you can spot him and his buddies through the window or find his car in the parking lot. Call the parents of the friend whose house your child is staying the night at to confirm it is truly happening.

Consider searching you teen’s backpack, purse, room, and car for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes/tobacco products, and related paraphernalia. Keep in mind that drug users often conceal these items in everyday normal-looking objects. Look through soda cans, mint boxes, makeup containers, belts, bottles/thermoses, books, old toys, and even markers/highlighters, double-checking for false bottoms and secret compartments that might store substances.

You—and certainly your teen if he knows about your search—might feel this is an invasion of privacy, a line you shouldn’t cross, but your cannot think this way. Your foremost jobs as a parent are to protect your child’s well-being and guide them to become a healthy, responsible, well-adjusted adult. Drug use critically threatens these goals. If you have just cause for a search—you’ve noticed other signs of drug use or have an overwhelming instinct that your teen is lying to you—then you have a duty to perform it.

Finally, throughout everything, always encourage and reward honesty. Once teenagers start using drugs, lying, and keeping secrets, it can be difficult for them to stop even when they want to. They continue down a dark path because they are too afraid of how you’ll react when you learn what they’ve done, leading them to further hide the truth.

To combat this, assure your teen you care more about him and his safety than punishing him, and that it is alright if he made mistakes if he’s willing to tell the truth and ask for help now. Give frequent opportunities for your child to come clean and go easier on him than if you learned what he did on your own.

Your teen will change a lot as she develops into an adult and might display some odd behaviors along the way. Remember not every new, strange habit or weird action means your child has some major issue happening behind the scenes.

More than likely it’s just her growing up and figuring out who she is, but pay attention all the same. If you notice extreme examples of these behaviors or multiple signs occurring together, however, then there might be an issue, and it’s time to intervene and put an end to your teen’s drug use.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

If you learn (or highly suspect) that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, read our tips on how to effectively intervene or click here for our first three behavioral signs that your teen is using drugs.

Pictures From

Group of Teenagers: From chiesADlbeinasco at https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiesadibeinasco/7361636130 

Paranoid Man: From Aaron Tait at https://www.flickr.com/photos/aarontait/4838674414

Funny Face: From Raissa Ruschel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/raruschel/5532915729

Sleeping Teen: From MC Quinn at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcquinn/2302823476

Jazz Band Practice: From San Jose Public Library at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sanjoselibrary/5731028595 

Checking Watch: From MrTime2give at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrtime2give/8064364626 

Climbing Out Window: From Guyinsuit1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Beer Pong: From Jirka Matousek at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jirka_matousek/9125052180

Lonely Walk at Night: From Christopher Cook at https://www.flickr.com/photos/133517056@N05/19934690626

Teen in Hoodie: From vanes_hud at https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenjajan/3128894157 

Do Not Enter: From Emma Craig at https://www.flickr.com/photos/98925031@N08/9571827657

Pinnochio: From  Walt Disney (Original trailer (1940)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nervous Girl: From Maxwell GS on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Lion and Cub: From fortherock at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortherock/3898643410

Cigarettes Hidden in Book: From High Contrast (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Messy Room: From Ben Babcock at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tachyondecay/2067319449/in/photostream/

Conversation at Table: From Matt @ PEK from Taipei, Taiwan (Conversation) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

5 Behavioral Signs that Your Teen is Using Drugs (Pt.1)

We all know drugs can have tremendous, detrimental effects on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally, especially teens and young adults whose brains are still developing. You never want your child to start abusing drugs or alcohol, but, should he start, you would hope to pick on it as soon as possible in order to step in and prevent future use.

Unfortunately, recognizing teen drug abuse isn’t always easy. Obviously, your child will do his best to hide his actions from you, and it can be difficult to spot signs of use if you don’t know what to look for.

In addition to differences in your teen’s personality or attitude, hearing frequent use of drug slang, and finding paraphernalia or other physical evidence, changes in behavior can be one of the most prominent indicators that your child has started doing drugs. This article will address six of the most prevalent behavioral signs, examples of these behaviors, and how to approach your teen about them.

#1) …Meh, I Don’t Care

By the time your child is a teenager, she has likely developed a personally unique combination of interests, hobbies, and passions. Basketball, cooking, comic books, running, art, skateboarding, underwater basket weaving, and everything in between—whatever it is she enjoys and is enthusiastic about is a big part of what makes her who she is. As are your teen’s friends and with whom she spends her time.

Drug use can change all that.

For many teenagers who abuse substances, drug use doesn’t become merely another “hobby” in their lives; it’s the hobby. Everything else tends to fall by the wayside.

Teens may lose interest in some or all of their favorite activities and passions, hollowly going through the motions, generally becoming lethargic toward doing them, or stopping altogether. They might abruptly quit the sports team after working so hard to make the squad or unexpectedly dump friends they’ve known for years and find new, unexpected people to hang out with. Even their appetites may change; your teen might become indifferent to foods she once loved, significantly eat less at all, or have sudden sessions of intense snacking (aka “the munchies”).

While it’s true teens’ interests and relationships often change naturally over time, a sudden disinterest in a hobby or apathy toward all or nearly all of his interests suggest something more is going on, which you should investigate. Ask why your teen stopped or appears to no longer care about a certain activity. Do her answers seem both reasonable and genuine?

Also look at how your teen approaches responsibilities such as his chores, job, and schoolwork. Is he all of a sudden neglecting these duties or is there a dramatic drop in his performance of them?

If your child is using drugs, he may seem to have absolutely no motivation to fulfill his obligations or routinely avoid them. Perhaps he gets fired from work for constantly showing up late or his grades unexpectedly plummet.

The starker the contrast between your kid’s former self and his actions now, the more worrisome this current behavior should be. If your teen has, since childhood, never been quick to embrace school and other responsibilities, his present lack of enthusiasm may not immediately suggest substance abuse (though it is an issue on its own). With teenagers who used to be honor roll students always on top of everything but now push off their chores and bring home failing report cards, however, clearly something is going on behind the scenes that is instigating this change. Substance use is a definite possibility.

Speaking of grades and report cards, discipline problems at school can also be a warning sign. Teachers and other school officials may see a whole other side of your teen and catch behavior that you either miss or your child does not display when around you.

Habitually ditching class, fighting, frequent detention, and suspension are all severe issues that are cause for concern and might be a consequence of drug abuse. They may additionally signify a disrespect for authority and rules, which could escalate to trouble with the law in the future.

If your child is getting in trouble at school, seek out a meeting with his teacher, counselor, or whoever else is close to the situation and can give you insight into what is going on. They can help identify the root cause of your teen’s behavior issues and develop a dual strategy—you at home and them at school—to mitigate or resolve the conflict.

Counselors are also an excellent resource and should be one of the first people you turn to if indeed your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

#2) Showers, Shirts, and Shades

This disinterest and neglect of hobbies and responsibilities can additionally spread to some of the most basic duties like personal hygiene and grooming. Beyond the visible, physical effects substance use can have on somebody, your teen’s general appearance might suffer as she showers, brushes her teeth, wears deodorant, and combs her hair less and less, perhaps even entirely. She might not care about her clothes at all, letting them get gross and dirty, or wear the same items day after day after day.

Sure, there are those teenagers going for an ironic “just rolled out of bed” look, limit their showering after embracing some water conservation movement, or just generally grow lazier as they get older, but any excessive, gross decline in taking care of these basic needs could be a sign of trouble.

This is especially true of any teen that formerly took great pride in her appearance and always kept up on hygiene. In other words, the more time it took your child to get ready in the morning before, the more a warning bell should go off when she doesn’t care at all now.

In regard specifically to clothing, the opposite of not caring—being very particular about certain articles and fashions—can also be a potential warning sign. Be on the lookout for your teen wearing the same colors, numbers, logos, or accessories every day and if his friends all have the exact same, specific style. Either of these trends could indicate gang involvement, which usually goes hand in hand with substance use, violence, and trouble with the law.

Even if neither of these signs occur, pay attention to how your teen dresses. What people choose to wear is often a big insight into who they are or their current beliefs and state of mind. A sudden and dramatic change in your teen’s style can be a big clue about changes in his life. Whether that change is ­­­­­­­simply a desire to try out new fashion, a personal crisis, experimenting with substance use, or anything in between, it is your job to take notice and find out what exactly the catalyst for change is.

Finally, be aware of clothing and accessories that celebrate drug culture or may be used to conceal the physical effects of substance abuse. Teens using drugs may frequently wear sunglasses, even at night or indoors, to hide their red, bloodshot, or dilated eyes, or dress in big sweatshirts or jackets, regardless of how warm the weather is, to cover up scabs and needle marks on their arms.

#3) It’s All about the Benjamins

Follow the money.

As any journalist investigating a scandal or detective solving a crime would tell you, money is almost always a key factor to pay attention to.

In the case of your teen possibly using drugs, the mysterious absence of money can be cause for concern.

Let’s say your teen has a job. You know she doesn’t spend much on gas or food or anything, yet she always complains she’s broke and constantly asks for money. It is possible she’s spending her money on something else she keeps secret from you.

Asking for money in itself is not necessarily a warning sign, especially if your child doesn’t have a job or allowance, as kids tastes in what to do for fun generally grow more expensive as they become teenagers. However, being unable to explain what she did with money you gave her is.

In addition, pay attention to how your teen reacts whenever you decline her request for cash or the amount she wanted. Is she shockingly and unreasonably angry (beyond typical hormonal teenage standards), clearly desperate for the money?

Whether your teen just reacted adversely to you refusing her money or not, it is always a troubling sign when your own money is unaccounted for. Lost cash, missing credit cards, perhaps even a mysteriously emptied, once-full coin jar—if these occur with any sort of frequency, it might suggest that your teen is taking them from you.

Stealing is never okay and a deeply troubling action that in itself, regardless of the reason behind it, is wrong and must be addressed. While your teen may have wanted the cash simply for a movie ticket or dinner, there is also a good chance that he took the money to buy drugs, alcohol, or some other illegal or dangerous item or service. Moreover, if your child is willing to cross the line and steal from you, he potentially is willing to cross other lines and engage in other activities he knows are wrong and disallowed.

Pay attention to how much money your teen has and where it comes from. Even if he is not stealing money from you, the mysterious presence of money can also be a warning signal.

Does he have a lot of unexplained cash around? Is your teen suddenly able to make numerous expensive purchases (such as all those clothes for his dramatic change in style)? This should be especially worrying if your teen does not have a job or does not work, make, or save enough to explain how he can afford them.

These may be signals that your child is not only using drugs but dealing them as well.

If your teen displays any of the aforementioned behaviors, don’t immediately panic. There are numerous reasons besides substance use that can propel these actions, from other serious concerns such as bullying or depression to simply naturally growing up. Your child is going to change as she transitions into a teenager and, later, adult, and her behaviors, choices, and interests will likely transform as well. It can be tough, knowing exactly what is causing what.

If a change strikes you as particularly odd, abrupt, or unnatural, start by talking to your teen about it. Embrace this opportunity for communication, honesty, and understanding instead of instantly jumping to conclusions.

At the same time, trust your instincts about certain behaviors and whether your child is telling the truth in her explanations. If things still don’t feel right, if her answers don’t add up or she continually avoids your questions, your teen is probably hiding something.

Keep track of her behavioral changes, as well as other possible signs of teen drug use. And should you learn of highly suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, see our tips on how to best intervene.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 covering two more behaviors that might indicate your teen is using drugs or alcohol.

Pictures From

Concerned Woman: From Conor Lawless at https://www.flickr.com/photos/conchur/419990808

Cooking: From Seattle Parks at https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattleparks/5632134823

Bored Face: From https://pixabay.com/p-146915/?no_redirect

Dirty Dishes: From User:Mysid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Studying: From Haque, Abul, Photographer (NARA record: 8467822) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Classroom: From ajari from Japan [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Women in Meeting: From https://www.pexels.com/photo/businesswomen-businesswoman-interview-meeting-70292/

Crazy Hair: From Joshua Rothhaas as https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshuarothhaas/2251211039/in/photostream/

Men All Dressed the Same: From Unitedgangsespañol (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Weed Shirts: From m01229 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/20988976518

Out Turned Pockets: From https://pixabay.com/p-1439412/?no_redirect

Money in Wallet: From 401(K) 2012 at https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6722544475

Pile of Money: From Tracy O at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_olson/61056391

Drug Deal: From Kelvyn Skee at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kelvynskee/5027288100

Thinking Woman: From http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=19972&picture=thinking-woman

New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.2

Chances are your teen’s friends are pretty important to them (Understatement of the year?).

As kids grow into teenagers, friendships become increasingly vital, and all they to want to do is hang out with their buddies. Not to mention, the more they spend time with their friends, the less they seem to want to do so with you.

It can be tough as a parent to let go. It can be even tougher when you think about the tremendous impact these peers have on your kid’s attitudes, behavior, and beliefs.

Are they a kind-hearted group of pals? Do they respect adults and have good values? Will they encourage my teen to drink or take drugs? How can I make sure my child makes good choices when she is with her friends?

There are several key strategies to implement to best monitor and interact with your teen’s friendships. In our previous article, we discussed the importance of early steps like personally getting to know friends, exchanging phone numbers with both friends and their parents, and helping friends in times of need even when your child is not directly involved.

While these tips will all help build a successful bond with these pals—thereby strengthening your relationship with your teen as well—and help avert potentially dangerous situations, there is more you can do to keep your teen safe, having fun, and out of trouble.

Even if that means keeping her safe from certain “friends” and their influence.

As your teen starts spending more and more time out of the house with her friends, it is important to maintain a balance between overseeing safety and allowing autonomy. Until circumstances require otherwise, find that effective middle ground between overbearingly cautious and ignorantly laissez-faire.

Always be aware of your kid’s general plans when she is out—where she’ll be, what time she’ll be home. Know who she’s with, especially if it includes new friends who you have not been well acquainted with yet.

As we’ve recommended before, a great strategy to promote good behavior in teens is to give them the opportunity to gain a little bit more freedom by demonstrating responsibility. One approach is to allow your teen to alter his plans while he is out so long as he calls or texts to notify you first. For example, perhaps he and his group suddenly decide to go roller skating after their initial dinner plans, which will keep him out later than he originally thought.

Ultimately, it is your decision and you can always say no—simply telling you what’s going on doesn’t give your teen unbridled free reign—but generally permit these new plans. For most teenagers, if you show that you trust and respect them, they’ll be significantly more likely to want to uphold that trust by making good choices.

[The Edge of Seventeen Mom Texting Daughter clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsLO7CHInXM&t=24s]

Should your teen demonstrate that she can’t handle this freedom or takes advantage of it, explain to her that she is not ready and revert to a more rigid system. Similarly, if you have suspicions that your teen is not is telling the truth about her plans but don’t have concrete evidence or are wary of a certain friend that was mentioned, go check out the scene for yourself.

Did your teen say she’s spending the night at a friend’s house? Drive by on your own to see if her car is there. Is she going with a group to the movies? You might as well catch a flick at a similar time and check if you see them in the lobby.

This isn’t the time to bust out your spy moves or wear a disguise. Don’t suddenly jump behind a bush to avoid being seen or pretend you totally forgot she and her friends were planning to be there if they come to talk to you.

Be casual. Act like—or better yet, actually have—errands or other business in the area and are not purely there to check up on them. Teenagers will not respond well if you seem like you do not trust them, especially when you claimed to trust them previously.

What about those friends of your teen that you just don’t care for (whether you simply aren’t fond of their personalities or are legitimately worried about their influence on your child)? How should you handle those cases?

First, still behave toward these friends in person the same as you would any other. Treat them kindly and talk to them when you have a chance. Even if they are your complete opposite and you cannot fathom what your teen sees in them, try to find just one thing you have in common.

Be extremely careful in openly criticizing friends or labeling them a “bad kid,” which can be one of the quickest ways to infuriate your teen. And never outright say you don’t like one of them.

Many teenagers are very protective of their friends, and an attack on a buddy is viewed as an attack on themselves. Not only that, but your teen will likely interpret your comments as a condemnation of his social skills, of his judge of character and ability to distinguish and attract quality people. Conversely, it might cause him to doubt you and think you unfairly judgmental.

However, there may be kids who are legitimately negative influences upon your child’s life, and it would be best if your teen spent less time with these individuals. They might encourage illegal and/or unsafe behavior, or perhaps they emotionally harm your teen, taking advantage of him or lowering his self-esteem. You can’t stand idly by but must manage the situation deftly so that you do not alienate your teen in the process.

First of all, banning a friendship or forbidding your teen from seeing his pal(s) is risky and should only be considered in circumstances that truly endanger the physical safety or emotional well-being of your child. More than likely, this action will infuriate your kid and cause him to seek out these friends more often due to rebellious spite or fear of losing them.

Instead, adopt the following strategies, which together should limit or cease a bad friend’s power over your child. The first is to focus on your teen and her behavior, regardless of a friend’s involvement.

Talk to her about her actions that you disapprove of and clearly establish and enact consequences when your expectations are not met. Eventually—perhaps subconsciously—an equation will take root in her head:

This negative reinforcement will lead her to spend less time with that friend or greatly alter her behavior when with him.

The second approach more directly addresses an unfavorable friend but still without “attacking” him in the eyes of your teen. More so, the goal is to have your kid conclude on her own that said person is not a good presence in her life.

Have a conversation with your teen about friendship, asking her what she thinks makes someone a good and bad friend. Share your own opinions on these categories as well. She’ll likely reference her own experience regarding the matter, but if not, ask your kid what friends of hers exemplify these qualities.

Do certain buddies consistently live up to her and/or your characterization of a good friend? Are there those who do not meet these expectations and do or say things that place them on the negative side?

Your teen may come to some startling revelations about a friend or two when she takes the time to truly think about it, especially if those pals fail her personal definition of a good friend.

When you do need to discuss a particular friend, subtly reveal your concerns while figuring out how your teen feels about that individual. Acknowledge that you might not know the whole story.

Ask what your kid sees in a certain pal about whom you are skeptical. Say something along the lines of, “Hey, it seems like Chris gets in trouble a lot and sometimes bosses you around. Help me understand: What do you see in him?”

Maybe you’ll learn about a side of Chris not obvious when he’s in your company, or that he is currently going through a family crisis or other issue which is affecting his behavior.

Conversely, your teen might struggle to come up with an answer or only respond with something incredibly minimal like “he’s funny.” In the latter case, press on: “Okay, that’s great, but is there more to it than that? Is he _____ (kind, trustworthy, does he always have your back, etc.—whatever important quality you want to address)?”

Don’t force your teen to give up that friend immediately or keep pushing him if he’s clearly getting frustrated with your questioning. What’s important is simply planting that little seed of concern.

It might not mean much right away, but even if teenagers won’t admit it or realize it themselves, their parents’ opinions matter a great deal, and your periodic comments will get your teen thinking. He will likely start noticing the aspects of his friend you addressed even though he never had before:

“Huh, Mom was right; Paul really doesn’t seem to value my opinion,” or Wow, I do end up in situations I’m uncomfortable in a lot when I hang with Sarah.”

With time and subtle encouragement, your teen will start to limit his time with that friend or gradually phase her out altogether.

At the end of the day, you must also remember that many friends will not easily be summed up as the perfect “good friend” who never gets in trouble or fights with your teen or as the trouble-making bully of a “bad friend” that needs to go. Teens are teens, people are people, and most will fall in the grey area in between.

Friends sometimes argue and hurt each other’s feelings. Good-hearted kids make mistakes and sometimes drink. It doesn’t mean they are automatically a horrendous presence in your teen’s life that must be removed.

Approach each incident individually at first but notice trends. Give second chances but trust your instincts. You’ll know in your gut when a friend is a little rough around the edges but alright at heart versus a truly negative influence.

Finally, remind your kid that her true friends will respect her choices and stand by her side even if they are different from their own, and she does not need to choose between drinking and having a social life. Teach your teen the skills to resist peer pressure and how to handle herself in a situation where drinking, drug use, or other risky behaviors are present.

Be available, be compassionate, be concerned and adamant when you need to be.

Be a confidant, be a source of guidance, be a parent.

It’s not always easy but if you keep this all in mind and your eyes open, you can navigate through the fascinating world of teenage friendships.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 1 of “New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones)”

Pictures From

Friends Walking Away: From Skinny Casual Lover at https://www.flickr.com/photos/136920307@N06/28884337216

Smoking Woman: From Valentin Ottone at https://www.flickr.com/photos/saneboy/3050003040

Teen Texting: From Carissa Rogers at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy/8466275231

Driving in Car: From Timo Newton-Syms at https://www.flickr.com/photos/timo_w2s/305245555

Disguised Dad: From Jeff Turner at https://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/2468996828

Smoking Teen Boy: From https://pixabay.com/p-484090/?no_redirect

Thought Bubble: Original image from https://pixabay.com/p-305444/?no_redirect. Text added by author.

Group of Friends: From David Amsler, www.flickr.com/photos/amslerpix

Teen Boy Sitting Outside: From https://pixabay.com/p-1098665/?no_redirect

Teen Girl Thinking: From Petr Kratochvil [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Line of Friends: From Vaibhav Sharan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vibhu000/7279793602) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friends Looking Up: From hepingting (CB106492) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.1

Friends.

Pals. Buddies. Companions. Amigos. Besties and BFFs.

Whatever you call them, friends are one of the most important aspects of many people’s lives. They’re a source of fun, trust, and support, people to talk and listen to, and who can tremendously shape our beliefs, interests, and behaviors.

This is especially true for teenagers.

Teens are still developing mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially, still figuring out the world and their place in it. While parents typically remain the primary influence on their kid, the time adolescents spend with peers and the value they place in them grow substantially during the teenage years (who else are they going to send a texting rant to upon storming out of the room, after all?).

Because of the significant role friends play in teens’ lives, parents should always pay attention to with whom their child spends her time.

For although good behavior and attitudes can spread through a peer group, so too can unsafe or unhealthy actions like underage drinking, drug use, and more. Whole friend groups may turn to risky behaviors together as they get older, or these activities may be introduced by one or more individuals to the rest of the group that previously had no inclination toward them.

Sudden changes in friendships, in particular, might suggest substance abuse. Just as getting involved with alcohol or drugs often causes teens to lose interest in their hobbies, school, work, and family, they might also unexpectedly stop hanging out with their usual friends.

At the same time, teens may suddenly start hanging out with new people who share the same substance-using interests. These new friends might seem out-of-character for your teen to bond with and don’t seem to have much in common with your child otherwise.

Of course, we are dealing with teenagers here. Friendships do change, evolve, and sometimes end, with new relationships waiting to blossom right around the corner—especially in the teenage world of hormones and high school drama.

There are a thousand reasons why your teen might end a friendship or start a new one, and substance use is only one of them. Don’t automatically assume your teen is snorting coke just because she no longer rides bikes with Susie from 6th grade.

Instead, simply keep an eye on your teen’s friendships while looking out for other personality, behavior, or physical developments that signal possible drug use. Only when enough of these signs couple together should you seriously investigate the problem further and intervene if alcohol or drug use is occurring.

This article will cover how to best interact with your teen’s friends and approach and monitor his relationships, both new and old.

The first strategy is also the most obvious: Know who your kid’s friends are!

Ask your teen who he hangs out with. What are their names, what are they like? How did he meet them?

Then, at the first available opportunity you see these friends in real life, go over and introduce yourself. Shake hands. Even if it’s a pal your teen has had for a long time, whom you’ve kind of-sort of seen around the house for years but never formally met, make the next time you see her finally be that day.

Even better, take some time to talk to them. Figure out for yourself what the people who play such an important role in your teen’s life are like. Are they polite? Shy? Outgoing? Are they open to meeting and talking with you or counting down the seconds until you go away?

From that initial introduction on, try to chit chat for at least a little bit each time you see them. Ask about their hobbies, how school is going, if they have any fun vacations planned with their families—anything really, whatever topics that genuinely intrigue you, and help you get to know them as a person (this may also inform you more on what your teen is like, as friends often share interests and personality traits).

Over time, you’ll build your own sense of connection or relationship with each friend.

Try to be the parent your teen’s friends want to talk to. You hope your own child enjoys conversing with you and will seek you out for guidance, right? If you can act as this same source of help and advice for his buddies, that’s all the better.

Maybe they don’t have a strong relationship with their parents or another trusted adult in their lives that they can open up to or ask for help when they are embarrassed or afraid of getting in trouble. You can be that vital resource.

Offer to listen to thoughts, stories, and problems. Respond with understanding and honesty. Give advice if they seek it but also know that sometimes teenagers just need somebody to listen when they express themselves.

It is also a good idea early on to exchange phone numbers with your teen’s friends. That way you can still reach your kid despite her rushing out the door to meet a buddy, her phone down to 2% and dwindling fast. If ever for some reason your teen doesn’t or can’t respond to your calls or texts, you still have a way to make sure she is safe by communicating with her friends.

On the flip side, swapping contact information gives your teen and her friends another means to contact you. Perhaps your teen needs to update you on her plans while she is out, but her phone died, and she doesn’t know your number by heart (she should, of course, but when’s the last time a teenager memorized a number after plugging it into her contacts?). Now, however, because her friend also has your number, she can easily reach you.

In case of more dire situations, exchanging contact numbers is increasingly important. Say your teen binge drinks at a party and exhibits signs of possible alcohol poisoning, worrying his friends. Yet your teen refuses to call you for help or give up his phone for others to do so. Luckily, his buddies don’t need his phone to call you for help and explain what is going on (upon which you should tell them to call 911).

Friends might also reach out to you in situations that don’t even involve your teen, yet they require your help. One example is if a friend becomes intoxicated while out and cannot drive home. He thankfully recognizes that he should not get behind the wheel but is too scared or embarrassed to call his parents. Since you are a responsible adult he trusts (because you took the time to get to know him and build a relationship), he calls you for a ride.

Or perhaps he isn’t drunk but simply at a party or other environment he feels uncomfortable without a safe way to leave. In any case, you are able to remove the teen from a potentially dangerous situation, which could have jeopardized his safety or the safety of others. Even though your child might not be a part of the situation at all, helping your teen’s friend is the right, moral thing to do, and you should be proud that he admires you enough to reach out.

When you pick up your teen’s pal, you might feel angry and want to scold him, just as if it was your own kid. However, remember and implement our previous tips on picking up an inebriated teenager: Acknowledge you are grateful he asked for help and save the lecture or yelling. Your job is simply to get him home.

Remember that being the trusted, possibly even “cool” parent does not mean you are bound to secrecy regarding the situation. You are still an adult, after all, and must inform the friend’s parents of what happened. The friend might not have originally called his parents, but they need to know.

Certainly, you’ll have that chance when you knock on their door late at night carrying their drunken teen. If, however, you had to bring him to your home to stay with your teen for some reason—perhaps the parents are out of town—make sure to call them as soon as possible to let them know their child is safe and with you.

Give all the details you know about the situation and remind the parents that their kid made the smart choice of calling for help and that it is probably best to hold off on talking to their teen until he is sober.

Unsure of where your kid’s friend lives? Don’t know his parent’s phone numbers?

Of course, if the friend is coherent enough you can get this information from him, but he might not be if he is drunk or high.

And, sure, your teen may have swapped numbers with his folks (especially if they also read this article!), but maybe not. Or maybe your teen is at her grandparents’ house, which doesn’t receive much phone service, or is otherwise unreachable.

That’s why, with both your teen’s old pals and new, try to build some connection (or at least facial recognition) with her friend’s parents—ideally, before the friend is passed out in your passenger seat.

Just as you should meet your kid’s buddies, so too should you introduce yourself to parents at the first opportunity. Swap phone numbers. Small talk if there’s time.

Admittedly, a face to face meeting might be a tad difficult to come by once teenagers get their licenses and start driving themselves places, but try your best.

Perhaps make an excuse to drop off your teen at a friend’s house instead of her driving on her own one day. Or you can always take the direct approach and simply ask to meet a friend’s parents or invite the family over to dinner.

Getting to know friends’ parents will better keep teens of both families safe and show you even more what your teen’s pals are like. You might even make some friends yourself.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 where we will discuss interacting with friends you don’t like, ways to encourage your teen to end/limit a caustic friendship, knowing and checking up on your teen’s plans with friends, and more. 

Pictures From

Group of Girls: From db Photography | Demi-Brooke at https://www.flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/2577242406

Women Drinking: From https://pixabay.com/p-1173651/?no_redirect

Girls Smoking Pot in the Woods: From St. Gil, Marc, 1924-1992, Photographer (NARA record: 8464473) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaking Hands: From Lucas (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Teen and Man Shake Hands: From https://pixabay.com/en/men-shaking-hands-hands-shaking-950915/

Woman and Teen Talk Outside: By John Benson at www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson

Exchanging Numbers with Teen: From Dave Proffer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepphoto/3939213937

Passed Out Woman: From Newtown Graffiti at https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/7982820624

Talking on the Phone: From https://pixabay.com/p-1582238/?no_redirect

Getting into Car: From Lou at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfm49/1015256548

Women Talking: From https://pixabay.com/en/women-beautiful-talking-2079133/

Looking at a Map: From Victor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/v1ctor/4753184912

Adult Female Friends: From Lori at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolololori/2581438627

 

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 2)

Party on, Wayne. Party on, Gar—

Hold it right there.

Before anyone does any partying, parents need our remaining tips. With movies, TV, music, and more often emphasizing alcohol and drug-fueled excess as the central theme of every big get together, it’s understandable for parents to be nervous when their teen mentions a party next weekend.

We’ve already covered gathering info on the party, communicating with other parents, and sitting your teen down for a serious talk before the party even begins. But what else can you do to protect your child while still allowing her to go out and have a good time?

#4 Safety Must Be the Number One Priority

safety-first

While a teen’s primary objective for a party is fun, yours must always be safety.

First, remember you have the ultimate say in whether you allow your teen to go to any particular party. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. While this will very likely be an unpopular decision with your teen, as a parent you sometimes have to make hard choices when looking out for your child’s well-being.

Once you permit your teen to go, one of the most important safety precautions you need to observe is ensuring safe transportation to and from the party. Find out how your kid intends to get there.

Walk? Get a ride? Drive herself? Each entails potential dangers against which you should prepare.

walking-454543_1920For instance, we all want to save gas and should do our best to go green. If the party isn’t too far away, your teen might be thinking, “Sweet, I can just walk there” (or bike, skateboard, etc.). And though this health-conscious, environmentally friendly decision automatically seems like the best choice, there are certain safety considerations to bear in mind:

  • Is the neighborhood/general area safe to walk around at night?
  • Will your teen’s route be well lit?
  • Does she have to travel alongside busy streets or roads that have little to no shoulder?
  • Will she be traveling alone or with friends?pedestrian-925850_1920

Depending on the answers to these questions, driving might be the better option after all. Even if walking is deemed safe enough, still remind your teen to travel in groups, stay in well-lit areas, and be careful of hazardous roadways.

Driving, of course, poses its own dangers, especially if alcohol is even remotely involved. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers and one third of all these driving fatalities are alcohol-related.1 In surveys reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten teens in high school drinks and drives.2

teen-driverRegardless if your teen is the driver or a passenger in a carpool, you absolutely must make sure she understands to never get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Even if your teen’s friend has told her he will be the designated driver and abstain from booze during the party, it’s vital she sees him keep that promise and find a new safe ride if he doesn’t.

Too often teenagers will get in a car with an impaired driver or try to drive themselves after drinking in order to get home and not get in trouble for staying out too late. Since your person-woman-apple-iphonechild’s safety is your first and foremost concern, tell her that she can—in any condition, at any time of night—always call or text you for help.

No matter whether your teen spotted her supposed DD taking shots or is herself intoxicated and unable to drive, assure her that you care more about her well-being than getting her in trouble. You never want her to put herself even greater danger because she feared reaching out to you.

questions-1014060_1920One approach to this that will help encourage your teen to contact you when needed is to implement a “No Questions Asked” rule. If she calls saying she has drank and cannot drive, your reaction might be to yell, get angry, or ask how she let herself fall into this mess.

But remember, her safety is your top priority. If you want her to call for your help, you need to create an environment where she won’t be afraid to ask for it.

When you pick her up from the party, don’t drill her with questions or begin (heatedly) lecturing. Instead, tell her you are happy and thankful she reached out. Remind her that doing so was the smart, right decision, even though it was probably hard to do. If you don’t think you’ll be able to speak without losing your cool, just stay quiet. Sit back. Listen.

trafficjamfrustration

Following up with your teen on the night’s events and the choices she made, however, is crucial. Find out what happened and go over what she should have done differently during the party. Give out suitable consequences but take that she did the right thing by calling rather than try to lie and sneak around into consideration.

Just not tonight. Tonight is about getting her home safely.

#5 See Your Teen Home

In a newsflash that will surprise no one, parties tend to go late into the night. That said, for those of you that hit the pillow face first before 9:30, this next tip might be a bit of a challenge. But if you’re a Night Owl, or can at least pretend to be one for an evening, try it out.

coming-homeStay up and see your teen come home. Depending on when you set curfew, it might be tough, but this tip will accomplish two worthwhile goals.

1).  For your own peace of mind, you can go to bed knowing that your child is safe and sound for the night. Letting him go to a party is a potentially stressful experience, but you now can rest easy.

2). Staying up allows you to see whether he followed through on his curfew and, especially if you were suspicious, examine his physical condition. Verify with your own eyes whether he drank or did drugs.

Be casual while you observe. The last thing you want to do isdetective-1424831_1280 seem like you’re purely inspecting your teen to get him in trouble or act like you distrust him. Teens hate that. Talk to him as you normally would (it’s not an interrogation). Tell him you’re glad he is home and ask if he had fun.

As you do, check for some basic signs of alcohol and drug use:

  • Is your teen stumbling through the door?
  • Does his breath or clothes smell like smoke or booze?
  • Are his eyes red, dilated, or unable to focus?
  • Can he follow the conversation?
  • Is he slurring his words or speaking abnormally loud?

If your teen has indeed been drinking or taking drugs, again, yelling-manas in Tip #4, you may get angry and want to yell.

But is shouting at a drunken teenager really going to convince him to make better choices in the future? Will he even comprehend what you’re saying?

It is essential that you have a serious conversation with your teen and determine appropriate punishments. Both, however, will be more effective in the morning when your teen is sober and coherent.

silhouette-1082129_1280

Parties can be a lot of things.

Fun. Scary. Exciting. Stressful. Stress-relieving. Casual. Wild. Memorable. And that’s for both the teenage party-goers and the parents waiting at home.

But so long as you talk early and often with your teen, communicate with other parents, and always place your child’s safety as your top priority, you can make sure the party is memorable for all the right reasons.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 1 of our first three tips for when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Program Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Safety First: From Matt Crampton at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattcrampton/3249191779

Walking Shoes: From https://pixabay.com/p-454543/?no_redirect

Walking at Night: From https://pixabay.com/p-925850/?no_redirect

Teen Driving: From State Farm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/7838240744

Teen Girl Texting: From https://pixabay.com/en/smartphone-woman-girl-iphone-569076/

Questions: From https://pixabay.com/p-1014060/?no_redirect

Stressed Driver: From Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sneaking In: From Marcel Oosterwijk at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wackelijmrooster/3177929150

Inspector Cartoon: From https://pixabay.com/en/detective-searching-man-search-1424831/

Yelling Man: From Paul Cross at https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499

Sunset Talk: From https://pixabay.com/p-1082129/?no_redirect

Works Cited

  1. Stim, Attorney By Rich. “Teen Drunk Driving & Underage DUIs: The Sobering Facts.” Drivinglaws.org. http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/dui-basics/the-sobering-facts-underage-duis.htm. N.p., n.d.
  1. “Teen Drinking and Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/teendrinkinganddriving/. 2012.

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 1)

The Adicts at SO36. Kreuzberg-Berlin

Parties.

From Halloween celebrations to Girls Night sleepovers, poolside bashes to fancy dress-up jamborees, parties come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in activities, occasion, location, and attendees. In one form or another, parties are likely to be a part of your child’s teenage experience.

They can be an important setting for your teen’s growth, an opportunity to make new friends, learn to be more comfortable in large groups, and develop vital social skills needed for life as an adult. Not to mention they can be a lot of fun.

flip-cupHowever, some parties are also a place of alcohol, drugs, and risky sexual behavior. It’s not difficult to think of a wild, toga-clad John Belushi in Animal House or the characters of American Pie and Superbad desperate to drunkenly get laid at the End of the Year Party or a dozen other pop culture examples that glamorize high school and college parties as consequence-free nights of intoxicated outrageousness. Just about every teen movie depicts all parties as having lots of booze and zero supervision—even if that doesn’t reflect reality.

With all this in mind, it can be nerve-racking as a parent to allow your kid to go to a party, whether it’s their first one or their hundredth. This article will discuss steps you should take when your teen goes to a party that will help keep him or her safe.

#1 Start with the Basics
calendar-819617_1280

This might seem simple, but it’s all too important.

Who, what, when, where? Heck, add the why in there too (Is there a specific reason the party is this weekend? Parents out of town or something like that?).

Always know information such as the party’s address/location, start and end times, and who is throwing the party. Who all is going for that matter? Just some close friends or practically the whole student body? And the kicker: Will the parent’s be home?

hanging-not-drinking

Set a curfew and make sure your teen knows it. Also establish rules on whether or not he’s allowed to go other places during the night—a different party, a friend’s house, maybe a fast food joint.

Depending on your child and the level of trustworthiness and integrity he generally upholds, allowing a little bit of freedom in these matters might prove beneficial.

Bouncing around to different places? Hcall-parent-for-helpave him send a text updating you each time his plans change. Realizes he’ll be out later than he initially thought? That’s fine, so long as he calls to let you know.

Again, not every teen can handle this level of autonomy, and you will need to ensure that this policy is not taken advantage of, but for teens that are up to the challenge, showing that you have faith in them will encourage them to prove that your trust is not unfounded.

#2 Use the International Parent-to-Parent Communication Network

Okay, so maybe there isn’t a global parental communication system, but talking to other parents the old-fashioned way about the upcoming party is still a good idea.

First of all, other parents can be an invaluable source for getting the information in Tip #1 if you don’t learn it from your teen.

conversation-799448_1280

Reach out to parents of other teens that are attending as well as the parents of the party’s host.  If you don’t currently have their contact information it can be a little more difficult than the days of looking up a family’s home number in the phone book, but there are other methods.

Of course, simply askiknock-on-doorng your teen is the first and easiest step. Or ask your teen’s friends next time you see them for that matter. In addition, you can always do a little Facebook stalking, ahem, research, to find and message parents online. Finally, you can use the direct approach and knock on their door for the ol’ face to face (again, their address will have to be something you ask your teen or teen’s friend if you’ve never dropped her off or otherwise know where their home is).

When you do get a hold of other parents, share what you know about the party with each other and take note of any discrepancies you discover from what you have heard from your respective kids. Indication that your teens are lying or hiding things is a sign that the party may not be a good idea.

For that matter, check that the host’s parents are aware there even is a party. They might be surprised to learn that their teen has such plans while they’re on their weekend get away.

One key element to discuss with other parents is whether or not there will be booze-presentalcohol. Even if only one teen shares this with her parents, inter-parent communication will ensure no one is left in the dark about this important fact.

Furthermore, don’t assume there won’t be alcohol simply because parents will be home. Sure, they might physically be in the house, but do they plan on actually supervising or at least checking in on the party periodically? How will they handle the situation if some of the guests sneak in booze or other drugs?

cartoon-boozeMoreover, some parents (incorrectly) believe that it is safe for teenagers to have alcohol if they are around and won’t care if it is at the party. Despite alcohol’s effects on the developing brain and studies that show that minors who are supplied alcohol by their parents are actually at increased risk for continued drinking in their teenage years and problem drinking later in life,1 some parents will even provide booze themselves.

#3 The Birds and the Bees and the Booze and the Weed

Whether you know there will be alcoholic drinks or not, a party right around the corner is a perfect occasion to have a serious conversation with your teen about alcohol, drugs, sex, and/or whatever other precarious subject he may be in need of.

serious-talkYep, that’s right. It’s awkward talk time.

Well, hopefully it won’t be too bad. And even if it is uncomfortable for you, him, or the both of you, it’s necessary to push through the awkwardness. These conversations are important, and, luckily, the longer you talk—not to mention the more often you have these talks in general—the easier and more natural things will become.

As you prepare for a conversation—and it will certainly go better if you prepare at least a general idea of what you want to say—keep these points in mind.

disapproveDon’t assume your teen already knows your exact stance on the subject matter. Make sure he knows by explicitly telling him what you do and don’t approve. Set ground rules. Teens that know their parents would disapprove of them drinking are 80% less likely to drink.2

Go above and beyond simply stating that you don’t want him to drink. Ask your teen what he’ll do if there is alcohol, pot, or other drug use going on. Together, brainstorm and discuss strategies to turn down a drink. Simply saying from the outset that he will abstain from drugs and alcohol is great, but it might be hard to follow through once surrounded by the peer pressure of a party environment. Knowing and practicing specific ways to say no will make it immensely easier to do so.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 on our remaining tips on when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or you don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Programs Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Dance Party: From Montecruz Foto at www.flickr.com/photos/28328732@N00/5807760586

Drinking Games: From stangls at https://www.flickr.com/photos/8068440@N08/509538615

Calendar: From https://pixabay.com/p-819617/?no_redirect

Backyard Party: From brad_bechtel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wellvis/1262802262

Young Girl Texting: From Carissa Rogers at www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy

Silhouettes Talking: From https://pixabay.com/p-799448/?no_redirect

Knock on Door: From Eden, Janine and Jim at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/6247800223

Girls Drinking: From Incase at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5143421728

Old Cartoon: From Warner Bros. (https://archive.org/details/TheBoozeHangsHigh) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Serious Conversation: From University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment’s photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snre/6721655935

Disapproval: From hobvias sudoneighm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/2191404675

Works Cited

  1. Feliz, By Josie. “Myths Debunked: Underage Drinking of Alcohol at Home Leads to Real Consequences for Both Parents and Teens.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/myths-debunked-underage-drinking-of-alcohol-at-home-leads-to-real-consequences-for-both-parents-and-teens/. N.p., n.d.
  1. Staff, By Join Together. “Parents Influence Teens’ Drinking Decisions: Survey.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/parents-influence-teens-drinking-decisions-survey/. N.p., n.d.

It’s Called Alcohol POISONING for a Reason

Carson Starkey always believed the world was full of unlimited possibilities. And throughout his life, he proved it.

He played on his high school’s tennis, cross-country, and lacrosse teams and competed in cycling tournaments up to the international level, all while graduating in the top ten percent of his class at Stephen F. Austin High School. Carson loved the outdoors and frequently volunteered his time to projects such as building hiking and biking trails. He could get along with people of all ages and held tight relationships with both friends and family.

A passion for architecture led Carson from Austin, sigma alphaTexas all the way to Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he majored in architectural engineering. During his first quarter he pledged to Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a move that surprised his family, who did not think he would join Greek life.

On December 1, 2008, the fraternity held its traditional “Brown Bag Night,” where Carson and the other pledges were each given a bag full of a variety of alcohol and told to finish it all before midnight. In just twenty minutes, Carson emptied his bag of two 24 ounce Steel Reserve beers, a 16 ounce Sparks alcoholic energy drink, and a fifth of rum split between him and another person. Pledges additionally passed around a bottle of Everclear.

People noticed Carson drooling, his eyes gaining a glazed look, and his body going limp, before he passed out entirely. It was later discovered that his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.4.

Some of the fraternity members brought Carson to a car to take him to a hospital but ultimately changed their minds out of fear of placing themselves and their chapter in trouble. Instead, they moved Carson back inside the house and onto a dirty mattress with a trash can nearby, leaving him alone and unmonitored the rest of the night.

Carson never woke up.

The next day, Carson’s mother Julia dialed back a missed call from earlier that morning. The San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office answered.

That was how the Starkey’s learned of their son’s death via alcohol poisoning.

What is Alcohol Poisoning

Despite its availability and popularity, alcohol is a known toxin. The human body can only process alcohol so fast—approximately one drink per hour. Any more, and the alcohol will enter the bloodstream quicker than the body can metabolize it, which leads to a person being intoxicated (see toxic is even right there in one of the most common synonyms for drunk!).

When a person drinks far more than his or her body’s threshold, such as when binge drinking, he or she risks alcohol slowing down vital bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and gag reflex. The loss or impairment of these functions can lead to choking, hypothermia, heart irregularity, organ failure, and more, all of which—as in the terrifyingly sad case of Carson Starkey—can lead to death. Survivors may suffer from irreversible brain damage.

Every year approximately 4,300 teens and young adults die from alcohol poisoning. Six people (of all ages) are killed by it every day in the United States alone.

amy winehouseSix people. Every day.

In 2011, Grammy award-winning singer Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning after a session of binge drinking depressed her respiratory system. Country musician Keith Whitley was similarly found dead with a BAC of 0.47. Bon Scott, the original vocalist of the rock band AC/DC, choked to death on his own vomit because booze had shut down his gag reflex. His friend had left him in his car that night to “sleep it off.”

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

If you ever drink or plan to be in a situation around drinkers, it’s crucial you know the signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do. Some basic indicators of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Slow, shallow, or otherwise irregular breathingpassed out girls
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion or if the person seems to be in a semi-conscious stupor
  • Skin that feels cold or clammy or has turned pale or bluish
  • Eyes that have dark circles underneath or appear sunken
  • Unconsciousness

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of a fatal dose of alcohol, and immediate action must be taken.

What To Do

Don’t ignore the problem or think the person simply needs to sleep it off. In fact, his condition will grow worse even as he sleeps, because the alcohol will continue to be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. As the friends of Carson Starkey, Bon Scott, and countless other victims have learned, leaving a person to sleep it off could mean he’ll never wake up.

call for helpRather, as soon as you observe any of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning call 911. Don’t wait just a little bit longer to see if the person’s state will improve; his condition is more likely to worsen over time, not get better.

While you wait for help, stay with the person and do your best to keep them calm, still, and comfortable. Monitor his breathing and heartbeat.

Now is not the time for you or anyone else to lecture “I told you you shouldn’t have drank so much,” or make jokes about him “being a lightweight.” If he is even able to comprehend what you are saying, it may very well make him angry and attempt to run away, drink more, fight somebody, or do something else equally stupid and dangerous.

If the intoxicated person lies down you absolutely must ensure he is not on his back or stomach. These positions make it very easy for someone to choke and asphyxiate on his own vomit.

Instead, lay him down on his side. If you need to roll him over to this position, use the Bacchus Maneuver (as demonstrated in this video):

But What If I Get in Trouble?

If the fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon hadn’t stopped to think about this question, Carson Starkey might still be alive.

Police_LineShould someone display signs of alcohol poisoning, you have both a moral and legal responsibility to get her immediate medical attention. Even if you are unsure of her condition, call 911 right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when a person’s life is on the line.

Still, countless cases of alcohol-related emergencies (including but not limited to alcohol poisoning) go unreported every year because people, particularly minors, are afraid of getting in trouble for drinking. For example, in a Cornell University study 19% of college students reported being in an alcohol-related situation where they should have called for help, but only 4% did.

First of all, the consequences for possessing or consuming alcohol as a minor or furnishing alcohol to a minor are nothing compared to the criminal negligence, manslaughter, and/or other severe charges a person may face if somebody dies from alcohol poisoning, and she did nothing to prevent it.

Second, in order to encourage underage drinkers to call for help when it is needed, many states, including California, have enacted Medical Amnesty laws. Under this legislation, if an intoxicated minor calls 911 for herself or another person—and stays with the person in the case of the latter—she is guaranteed protection from criminal prosecution.

Worried about how your friend will react to you calling 911 on her behalf? Don’t be.

If any sane, logical person wakes up in a hospital bed and hospital bedlearns she was treated for a potentially life-threatening condition, the last thing she’ll do is bust your chops for ruining her night at a party. Reaching out for help is not snitching or being a tattle tale—it’s looking out for other people. It shows you have their back and care more about them than about keeping the party going or getting judged for “worrying too much.” It’s that very worry that may save your friend’s life.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious and rampant issue. Knowing the signs and being brave enough to take action can mean the difference between life and death.

body bag

*        *        *

By Tyler Wroblewski

For more on Carson’s story please visit awareawakealive.org

Before your child goes to a party, make sure to have a serious conversation about alcohol and other drugs. Ask what your teen would do if he found himself in this situation and inform him of the risks and signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do. 

Pictures From

Sigma Alpha Epislon House: Original photo by Kane5187 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped by author.

Amy Winehouse: By Rama (cropped version from) [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Passed Out Wine Girls: By danielle_blue at https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielleblue/1453928309

Talking on the Phone: By Marjan Lazarevski at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlazarevski/9645066390

Police Line: By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hospital Bed: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Paramedics: By Chris Wagner at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt.1)

As a teen, there’s a decent chance you will be offered alcohol or other drugs at some point. Maybe by a stranger at a party, an acquaintance, even a friend. And for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into right now (teen drinkers are more likely than their non-drinking peers to become alcoholics—sorry, just had to slip one in there!), we at Omni Youth Programs encourage you to turn down their offer.

Easier said than done, right?

Like, how exactly do you say no? Or how should you respond when people ask why? What if you decide to be sober but still want to hang out with friends who drink or go to a party where alcohol may be present?

Of course, Omni Youth Programs advises teens to avoid situations that involve underage drinking completely. The best way to turn down a drink is to not be in a scenario where someone would offer you one. Furthermore, even if you are staying sober, an alcohol-infused environment could still prove dangerous. Intoxicated people are more prone to bad decisions, crazy antics, and violence, all of which could put you in danger—not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law, even if you did not personally consume any alcohol.

That said, we also recognize that avoiding alcohol entirely is not always possible when leading a typical teenage life. You might show up to a pool party, not realizing there would be booze present, or go to a concert with a drunken crowd. Maybe you don’t have a safe way to leave the situation or perhaps you simply don’t want to miss out on an otherwise fun time because of the poor choices of others.

These top ten tips can apply to everyone, whether you never drink, just aren’t drinking for the night, or simply want to drink in moderation when everyone else is getting hammered. Furthermore, while I will mostly be addressing teens, these tips can be just as helpful for non-drinking adults at the bar.

#1 Trust Your Friends

As I’ve explained before, telling my friends I didn’t want to drink was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life. I was scared my decision would weaken our friendships, and we’d drift apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

hiking picture editWhile it’s possible your friends may be initially disappointed, they’ll quickly adjust. Friends don’t need to like all the same things
or have the exact same opinions on everything to be able to appreciate one another. Your real friends will accept you for who you are.

Also, once you tell your pals the first time, it’s either not a problem anymore or it gets infinitely easier to deal with. My buddies came to accept that I was a non-drinker, and if they or anyone else asked me to drink it was increasingly easy to say no. Furthermore, whenever we were at a situation with a lot of new people, I felt like they always had my back about my choices and would support me in the face of anyone who gave me trouble.

#2 Go Where You’re Comfortable

As I tagged along with my friends to various events where alcohol was present, I gradually discovered what types of gatherings I could have fun at and those that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A significant part of that was the “level” of alcohol or how much the event centered on drinking.

Some non-drinkers are comfortable with even the wildest of frat parties, some only enjoy low-key BBQs with a few beers present, while others don’t like being around booze at all. For me, I was cool with kickbacks and small-sized parties, but anything much crazier than that and I’d decline the invite.dancing legs

Figure out where you are comfortable. If you’re feeling weird, don’t feel awkward about leaving the situation. Always know that your decision not to drink does not define you. Don’t think it dictates who you can or can’t be friends with or where you can or can’t go to have fun. That’s up to you.

#3 You Aren’t Alone

Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one in the world not drinking, and pop culture often portrays being drunk as a requirement for a good time. But did you know roughly 70% of teens don’t drink?

Lots of people choose not to drink or do so only in moderation. When you are at a party or other social situation with alcohol, it’s likely there will be other people not drinking. Whether they’re the designated driver, totally abstain from alcohol, or need to get up early, you can usually find others who are sober.

friends hands edited

Also, countless entertaining activities don’t involve alcohol, everything from playing sports to hiking to shopping at the mall and more. Sure, a lot of my buddies like to drink, but that’s far from the only time we get together. Your friends will also be into doing other fun things. Capitalize on those opportunities.

#4 It’s All in How You Say It

The number one part of telling people you don’t want to drink is in the way you say it. No matter the exact words you use to say no or explain your reasoning, you need to be confident but polite. Go ahead and repeat that to yourself.

Confident but polite.

Confident: If you sound wishy-washy people might think you don’t really believe you don’t want to drink and just need a little convincing. Be assured in your decision and show it. I was at a kickback with a lot of people I didn’t know once, and it took at least three times as long for everyone to finally understand I wasn’t a drinker, all because I was too meek in my initial response.

Polite: On the flip side, you shouldn’t sound so over-confident as to be arrogant or aggressive. Doing so may seem like you are attacking everyone else. Make sure to thank them for offering—sometimes people ask you to be a good host—but then politely decline.

#5 Short but Sweet

Simplicity is your friend.

It is the greatest tool in your belt, the strongest weapon in your arsenal. When it comes to turning down a drink, simplicity is often the best tactic.

“Hey, do you want a shot?”

“Nah, man, I’m good.”

Boom. Drop the mic.

 Mic

Sometimes, less is more. You don’t need to go into long-winded explanations as to why you aren’t going to shotgun that beer if no one asks. Save yourself the time and effort and keep things short and simple. “No thanks,” “that’s alright, I’m fine,” and the like are all perfectly great responses that tend to garner equally great results. You didn’t make a big deal out of turning down a drink, so why should anyone else?

And if the first “I’m good” isn’t enough, you can always use the Broken Record Technique (aka the B.R.T.). Someone asks you again and again and again to drink? Just repeat the same short phrase again and again and again. They’ll take the hint.

*       *       *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for the remaining five awesome tips for non-drinkers!


Pictures From

Beer: From Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Group Picture & Picture of Hands: From the author.

Dancing: From www.audio-luci-store.it at www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

Microphone: From Robert Bejil at www.flickr.com/photos/robnas/