Get ready to resist the urge to lock your teen in the house for the next several years: According to a new study on teen substance abuse, 50% of teenagers in America are drinking, using drugs or both. As ever, alcohol is the most popular substance with the underage crowd, followed by cigarettes and marijuana, with prescription drugs close behind. Great news, huh?
I can't say I'm particularly surprised by these results -- it seemed like half the people I knew in high school drank or smoked or worse -- but as a parent, I'm fairly terrified by them. It won't be long before my kids are teenagers, and the truth is, I have no idea how I'm going to handle this issue. Like, no idea. At all.
The thing is, I feel like no matter what approach we take as parents, there's no guarantee that our children won't do drugs. Drugs attract kids from all kinds of families: Super strict, laid-back, religious, not religious, wealthy, poor. I've known people whose parents' substance abuse problems turned them off to drugs and alcohol for life; I've known people who started drinking and doing drugs with their parents. What scares some kids straight makes others even more curious. How can you know which kind of kid you have until it's too late?
And how do we answer the inevitable questions about our own experiences? On the one hand, if we're honest about the keg parties we went to or the pot we smoked, our kids might feel more comfortable opening up to us. On the other, telling them the truth about the things we've done might make it seem like we're giving them permission to do the same.
Sometimes I think the parents who take the "if my kids are going to drink, it better be under my roof" stance have the right idea. Allowing a bunch of teens to get wasted at your house might seem insane, but odds are they're going to be getting wasted anyway, and at least that way you don't have to worry about them getting behind the wheel. But where do you draw the line? At picking up a few six-packs on your way home from work?
I don't know. All I know for sure is that getting two kids to the other side of teenage-dom is going to be scary as hell.
How do you talk to your teen about drugs?
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