Alternative title, How Much Do You Ask Your Kid?

I talk a lot about giving kids space, especially teenagers, letting them make decisions, even if they might be the wrong ones, especially if the decisions really won't make much difference in the Big Picture, and most don't, most are innocuous decisions.

But face it. Some are more innocuous than others, and kids will get themselves into very bad situations that they could have avoided had we only reeled them in, in time.

So I'm just going to throw out a little public service announcement here. It's summer, and the kids are home from school. They're going out late, breaking curfew, and sleeping late in the morning.

Even if you're up at 2:00 a.m. to get their scent, you know very well that it's possible your kid is smoking pot, or drinking, maybe even using cocaine or designer drugs, but by the time they get home, the look is less than trashed, less obvious, and short of drug testing, you rely upon what you see and hear, and face it, you're hoping for the best, giving the benefit of the doubt, wanting to avoid conflict, but more to the point, hoping there is nothing to worry about.

Closing your eyes to make it so.

And your kid is being a normal adolescent, not talking much to you except to ask for the car keys, especially ignoring intimate questions. So you're doing what you have to do, which is giving him or her space and time to grow up, to think things out, to decide the best way to go.

Nevertheless. I think it's worth it to ask about heroin.

Of course, within the guidelines of respecting boundaries, you still warn your kids about all of the other drugs, too, and about alcohol, and share some of your personal experiences (you must). You do ask questions, pointed questions, all the while giving space, not intruding too much, and respecting this growing organism's right to grow towards the sun. But if you don't ask, you don't care.

In any case you can't assume the only drugs out there are "soft" drugs. There's no good illicit drug, don't get me wrong. But there are the softer entry drugs. And there's heroin. And an overdose with heroin, or taking in bad heroin is a really bad thing, the end of the experimentation, the end of testing the limits.

When you ask, your kid will respect you more, maybe even tell you the truth, that it's out there. Why? Why would you get the truth? Because kids are scared, too. And it's your job, frankly, to scare them, so they can be even more scared.

Do they blow us off? Do they ignore us? Yeah, sure they do. But they still hear us talk, flapping in the wind; they hear words like, "I hear there's some bad heroin out on the street from Columbia and someone died, a young kid died from it. Is it going around? It's tempting, I know. I was a kid."

You can lie, here, about it having been tempting to you, or not even use the line. But if it is tempting to your kid, the kid will look at you like, HUH? And maybe be honest with you. You never know.

Just tossing it out there. For discussion.



Raj said…
well, truly makes a lot of sense to me, I'll do this when I have kids for sure. By the way, didn't anybody tell you to please enable "post pages" in Blogger settings, that allows each post to be a separate page with an address, try that, you might like it... :o)
therapydoc said…
Thanks Raj, I'll do it!
Clueless said…
Great post. I used to work with teens and if only parents would have had an open dialogue. But, this starts when they are born developing that type of communication; however, it can be established anywhere along the way.

While reading this, I was reminded about how society views and approaches suicidality. Afraid to bring it up, but the person would reluctantly want to talk...if only someone would ask.
Anonymous said…
So true, parents need to acknowledge their teens are going to drink, experiment with pot etc. etc. I have heard alot of parents say "not my kid" and that is just not realistic. It is everyones kid. I am so lucky though, both my kids now 21 and 18 yrs old talk to us about sensitive issues. They know that if they do drink they are either to stay where they are or call us and we will come and get them to drive them and their car home. It is sooooo important to have communication with your kids especially these days. Great post, as always.
April said…
Agreed! It relates to sex, too. Pretending your kids don't know about it (by not talking to them about it) doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Better safe than sorry, eh?
Anonymous said…
You're totally right about that flappin' in the wind thing. Info's going in, even if they don't consciously acknowledge it. I'd say, especially if you seem to know what you're talking about, and that's when your past comes in handy. (My past, I'm thinkin' of there. Heh, heh.)

There's never a bad time to bring this stuff up, Doc. Good one.
Anonymous said…
From my experience as a teacher who takes teenagers on exchange trips, I'd agree with anonymous: most parents don't want to know and convince themselves their child doesn't drink, doesn't dabble with drugs, only has wholesome friends etc. Which doesn't help the kids.
Isle Dance said…
Thanks for the great suggestions.

I hope schools have continued educating kids on dangers, too. We were shown a really graphic movie in school, with the up close/in the face reality of drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases - and handed a black lung at an elementary school assembly. It all made a significant impact.

As for talking with kids, I never thought I'd have (the right) to, since I don't have my own. But after discovering some extremely risky chances a young cousin was taking (and the extremely inappropriate ways some other adults were handling it), I was amazed how reaching out gently to him made a huge impact for the better. Almost instantly. If it weren't for his excited self-initiated progress reports (I seriously figured he'd permanently ditch me ASAP), I would have never believed how much he just wanted someone to care enough for him to do otherwise. And yet he was the football captain and all. They all really do need loving guidance.
therapydoc said…
Raj, If you scroll over the time stamp you get the post URL. Thanks.

April, you're right on with the sex discussion, add to that be prepared to visit a doctor.

Clueless, so right about talking about suicide, which is a copycat thing with kids and adults, by the way.

Isle, amazing that you talked to a young cousin. Family is powerful.

Yo A Decker.

And Anonymous, what a great point about Not My Kid. We have to discuss this at length, Who's The Bad Influence?
Tzipporah said…
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.

this is where I'm glad my baby is under 2. And freaking out about how early we have to start these conversations now.
You know, if parents ask in the right way, it's almost like giving kids permission to talk about this stuff, too. Because even though your kid may not be using drugs, a lot of kids are affected by their friends/peers drug use, and I think there's a lot of value in making home a safe place to bring that stuff up.
Anonymous said…
The scariest part is the fact that drugs are soooo easy to come by these days. According to some young folks I know, heroin, which in my teen years (we're talking 30 to 40 years ago)was practically impossible to find, is now readily available.
Mariposa said…
Agree with you...I grow up with the "meanest" Mom in the world, mean in a good way...and bec of that I missed going to jail...I missed failing college...I missed using heroin and other drugs...and I missed messing my life! :)

And she did what you're trying to explain here...gave me space was clear what are her rules...she does not police me bec she presume we have a clear agreement on things...
phd in yogurtry said…
I wholeheartedly agree with your "soft" vs. "hard" distinction. Telling kids drugs are "all" bad reeks of no credibility.

I personally include meth and crack (along with heroine) on my list of exceedingly high risk drugs. In my small town upbringing, I was offered all but the heroine. Just my experience. So I tend to think its less "available" but I'm sure that changes according to city and time period.
prin said…
I never lied to my kid about my own drug use, my own failures or whatever I did with my life that I suffered the consequences for or that he now has to suffer the consequences for (for a hypothetical?, you can't have that playstation game because mom didn't finish her degree when she had the chance because she had to party, so now she can't afford to get you what you need). I talked to him honestly and openly about everything that would come up and I tried to make sure that it did come up before he reached adolescence. I loved that age between 8 and 11. I have always said that age is God's little reprieve before all hell breaks loose. We had so many good conversations during that age, the age when they will still hear you. You can wait until you suspect something is going on but by then it will be much harder to get through to them. I started telling him the truth with the first question he ever asked me. What I now have is one of the most well grounded individuals I have ever met. He is secure in his own being, with his own faith and is not likely to be swayed by his peers. I am so proud of him and yes, I'm proud of me for finally getting something right :)
therapydoc said…
What a lucky kid, Prin.
Anonymous said…
i don't know. I feel like if you ask about heroin and not other drugs/substances that you're saying - those are all right, but don't do this- and telling your kid you don't care as long as they don't do heroin.

As a child of the 1970s I got a chance to try all kinds of things. But the big justification was my own parent's substance use. I knew they were back at home having their own little party, so what I did was OK.

Better to set a good example. I don't think you can avoid kids experimenting (maybe you can but not in my circles), but you can demonstrate that it's not 100% of life and fun.
therapydoc said…
Anon, I'm not saying talk about heroin to the exclusion of the other drugs. I'm just saying, don't forget it.

And right, the example is priceless. But lies, denying the reality of your adolescence or young adulthood, are not.
Since you're taking blog suggestions, what about publishing comment dates as well as times? Then we can see whether a thread is still active.
therapydoc said…
Gotcha' mom, thanks. Did I ever ask you if you took that name, Mother in Israel, from the book of Devorah?