This desperate note from a mom suggests that her daughter’s friendships are part of a much larger problem. To respond, I turned to my friend and colleague, Judy Kirkwood.
Judy has written extensively about youth addiction and mental illness for Third Age and is on the Parent Advisory Board of Partnership at DrugFree.org as well as one of their Parent Ambassador volunteers.
(Neither Judy nor I can provide medical or clinical advice but Judy has a great deal of knowledge and experience in the field of addictions—as well as the sensitivity of a mother.)
Dear Dr. Levine,
I don’t know what to do anymore. In the past year and a half my daughter has been with friends that are drinking, smoking, weeds and drugs. Her learning is very poor since grade ten.
She always denies everything. We have been arguing with her almost everyday. She just doesn’t seem to care. She has been sexting with boys and girls. She thinks that this is cool. She texts during class time she is failing in her subjects and it’s only the first semester. She doesn’t know what she is and seems very confused with her identity. I have read some of her texting. It is making me sick to read the stuff that my daughter is writing and with so no shame at all. For her it seem that is fun to full around with boys and girls.
I’m thinking of bringing her with me to a retreat place so we can reconnect and make her see what life is all about. Her poorly chosen circle of is just destroying her. What else can I do? I know if I send her to talk to someone, she will only deny and lie. Because
she has been lying to us so many times in the last two years about a lot of things: Where she is, with who she is hanging out, she was always denying that she never touched drugs, smoke and weeds. I found out she was doing all those things by reading her phone and her Facebook chats.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
From—a desperate mom that only want to help her daughter
Dear Desperate Mom,
Many parents like you have had to deal with the shock of their teens’ sexual behavior. Look around at our culture. From television to magazines to the Internet, early sexual behavior is encouraged. A number of teenagers these days consider themselves bisexual. The consequences of early sexual behavior are the same as they have been for generations: pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, peer group rejection (or acceptance), and broken hearts.
It is difficult to watch this obsessive and disappointing behavior, but the consequences are not, perhaps, as dire, as early drug use, which affects the development of the young brain and can result in death by overdose or vehicle accidents caused by impairment.
You are in a tight spot. Many parents have been there before you. Our blind spot is the power that we have right under our noses to signal our disapproval. And no matter how much our teenagers seem to dislike us, they still do want our approval. You can provide ethical and logical consequences of her behavior without coming down like a sledgehammer. Step back and consider these actions:
-Remove the privileges that your daughter has been abusing
Who pays for your daughter’s cell phone and computer? Seize them immediately. You are enabling her behavior by providing her with the tools. This signals to her that you are not serious. True. She can use other people’s cell phones and computers to do the same thing, but it won’t have your stamp of “approval.” It will be clear when you disable the phone by canceling service, and force her to use library facilities for schoolwork on a computer, that you do not condone her behavior.
-Do not provide transportation for her or allow her to use the vehicles for which you have paid with your hard work
If she is using drugs, this is for her own safety as well as others’ safety. The downside is she may take a ride from someone who is impaired. On the other hand, she herself may be impaired while operating a vehicle that you have provided to her. Offer rides to approved activities.
-Communicate with her school and with other parents
You are not in this alone. Other kids are doing the same thing. Talk with the school about consequences for using a cell phone in class and know the school calendar as far as school events your daughter claims to be at. Also, when you know the telephone number of her friends’ parents, and have talked to them yourself, you are able to do safety checks to find out if she is where she says she is.
-Most important: Check out http://drugfree.org
Pay special attention to the section called Intervene, which will walk you through the steps to interrupt the cycle of drug use your daughter seems to be in, as well as offer support to you.
My warmest wishes to you and your family,
Category: Friends who abuse alcohol and/or drugs