If you suspect a teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, do not panic and do not immediately speak to the teenager about the situation. Speaking to the teenager before you have a plan usually backfires because the conversation quickly disintegrates into a confrontation, which accomplishes nothing.
The first thing you need to do is think of people in your life who can be helpful and think of professionals to contact. Determine if there is another adult—an uncle, older brother, or favorite cousin—with whom the child has a good relationship and may have some positive influence. Is there a member of the clergy that can be helpful? Does the child have a pediatrician who has been a regular part of his or her care? Think of people in your life who can connect with the child you are concerned about. Enlist one or more of these people to spend time with the child, since he or she might open up to this person when not being open to a parent.
Alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs, though legal, are often abused. People can get these substances whether they are of age or not, and the same thing is happening with marijuana. Walking through almost any neighborhood, one can smell marijuana everywhere. Dena Gorkin recalls walking down the street with her twelve-year-old daughter and her daughter said, “Smell that, Mom? That’s marijuana.”
The term bullying is used frequently, and while there certainly is a great deal of bullying happening, it is important to know that bullying is a very specific type of aggressive behavior. Very often children fight over things. Two children want the same ball on the playground, or two children want to be first down the slide. This is fighting between two peers of equal power. It is not bullying. It may be behavior that we want to work on, but it isn’t bullying.
Bullying is the deliberate abuse of power to harm another person. There are three critical components in that definition, so let’s consider each of them:
In the field of substance abuse prevention, there is a concept known as protective factors. These are conditions or behaviors present in an individual’s environment that decrease his or her chances of falling prey to addiction and other risky behaviors. The following are some protective factors that parents can provide, no matter the age of their children.