Blog: Parenting

Advice for parents of troubled teens

I have a 15-year-old son who, in the past year, has gone from a quiet, well- mannered, well- liked child to a stranger to me. He hasn’t attended school in about two months. He comes and goes as he pleases, he will not respect the curfews I set for him and sometimes is gone for days on end. He has started smoking and he has admitted to smoking weed. He doesn’t listen to anyone and if we try and talk to him he just leaves. I don’t want to throw him out of the house but I just don’t know what to do. His behavior is taking its toll on me. — Noreen
Many parents are struggling with similar problems. So the first thing Noreen should know is that she shouldn’t feel alone.
Look in your neighborhood or church and notice all the parents who seem to have it all together. One of the very first things I would advise you to do is to seek counsel from some of those successful parents. I would also strongly encourage you to establish contact with your son’s school to request assistance in addressing his specific challenges. Our tax supported schools deal with these sorts of challenges every day and many have targeted resources at their disposal to counter these problems. You must ask for information on specific adolescence or male-oriented programs that have proven successful over the years. Then, you must then develop a relationship with the leaders of that program to give them a sense of urgency about your son. Do not be put off by their busy schedules. The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is very true when dealing with most large organizations. You must be diligent and persistent if you truly want to redirect the life of your son.
I would then encourage you to work on establishing lines of communication with your child. It is not unusual for adults to lose the ability to communicate with their children effectively. You must now identify what those barriers are and strategically remove them one at a time.
I would enlist the support of a valued male relative or friend who can oftentimes better identify with younger males because they have already transitioned into adulthood. They can better identify and anticipate what some of the experiences your son has/will encounter. Young men are often confused about where they fit in life and need actual role models to help them work through this sometimes very difficult period. You must partner with a dependable male who has good communication skills, who is willing to spend some-one-on-one time with your son. Many schools and organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, scouting and athletic teams have very active and effective mentoring programs for young people. They do a thorough job of screening and training the adult mentors who work with their students.

If parents drive under the influence, their kids may too

When it comes to driving under the influence, teens are influenced by their parents' behavior. A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 16 and 17 year olds living with parents who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are far more likely to drive under the influence than adolescents whose parents do not drive under the influence.

As shown in the above chart, 18.3% of teens living with a mother who drove under the influence also drove under the influence, as compared to 10.9% whose mother did not drive under the influence. However, having a father who drove under the influence increased the likelihood that a teen would drive under the influence, from 8.4% to 21.4%.

Daring to be Different: Peer-to-Peer Youth and Family Recovery Support

Just last Tuesday I met with a tired and distraught single mother over a cup of coffee to offer recovery support following the sentencing of her adolescent son to 6 years in prison.
Weeping, distraught, and full of fear about his life, she described how his path of drug use, criminal activity and resistance to all treatment efforts had failed. She felt helpless and like she was being “mean to him” because she recently called him a liar.
She admitted to being obsessed with worry and asked, “How do you let go of your children? Isn’t it different with our kids, isn’t it natural to want to rescue them and protect them from harm and difficulty?”

Building Family Strengths by Connecting to Culture

family-engagement-Jaime-and-Joaquin-photosOne of the drawbacks of juvenile court systems is that they often struggle when it comes to connecting kids to their own cultural values. Yet helping the youth and their families do so can tranform families and support teens in living crime-free and drug-free lives.
The Reclaiming Futures site in Santa Cruz saw the need for a culturally-rooted family-strengthening program years ago and adopted an 8-12-week curriculum called Cara y Corazón (literally, "face and heart"), developed by Jerry Tello. After hearing about it for years, I finally had the privilege of seeing Jaime Molina, ASW, Project Director and Community Fellow for the Santa Cruz site, and Joaquin Barreto, MCHS, present the curriculum at the Building Family Strengths conference held in Portland in June. (In the photo above, Jaime is on the left; Joaquin on the right.)

Roundup: Juvenile Justice System Teens in D.C. Mow Lawns for Elderly; Juvenile Court Privacy Disappearing; and More

juvenile-justice-adolescent-treatment-roundup-oldTVWhen it comes to the juvenile justice system and adolescent substance abuse, there's always something cooking. Check out this week's bonanza of resources and new stories:

How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents

adolescent-substance-abuse-how-to-raise-a-drug-free-kid-book-coverAt The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), we’ve been working for years to identify practical, realistic ways to keep kids drug-free. Why? Because a child who reaches age 21 without smoking, using illicit drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so. In other words, sober children become sober adults. And we’ve found that the best chance kids have of reaching age 21 drug-free is engaged parents. Parents have the greatest impact on whether their children will smoke, drink or use drugs. 

Parenting: Feedback on the CYT Family Support Network Manual?

Cover of Family Support Network treatment manual for teen cannabis usersWe've had another response to our recent call for recommendations on good curricula on parenting training. (Other suggestions appear here.) A commenter wondered what other jurisdictions' experience has been with the Family Support Network (FSN) protocol, pictured here.
FSN is one of the five Cannabis Youth Treatment (CYT) protocols tested and promulgated by SAMHSA and CSAT. (You can download all of them here for free.)
So here's the questions: