Straight Talk Advice

Aug 09, 2006

Teens say drug-testing son was a good decision

Dear Straight Talk: My son, “Jon”, is 17 and will be a senior. His dad and I divorced ten years ago and our relationship is still strained. We broke up over alcohol. I went into sobriety and his dad didn’t—in fact his dad’s drinking and temper tantrums have gotten worse. A year ago Jon chose to live with his dad and since his dad travels frequently, he is often there alone.


Last spring, Jon got in trouble for swearing at a teacher. Since he was flunking classes and having anger issues, the administrator suggested I have him drug tested. I agreed and it came up positive for pot. I knew he was using pot because his sister confided to me that he’s really into it, plus he’s come over for dinner totally wasted. I’ve used pot in my past, but the drug is so much stronger now that it worries me.


My son hates me for drug testing him. Whether I email or phone, he calls me names and says he hates me. Was I wrong to have him drug tested? What can I do to influence him when he doesn’t live with me? I feel I have no control over his life and it kills me to see him going downhill.—Help me


Dear Help: First of all, I can’t tell you how many teenagers I’ve seen who have turned around because someone cared about them. Drug testing your son showed him you care. It took a lot of guts and he knows it. Bravo to you.


Secondly, you’re right about marijuana. It is so strong compared to 25 years ago that it’s hardly the same substance.


Thirdly, many teens go through an “I hate you” phase with their parents. At a psychological level, they’ve generally abandoned some truth within themselves and they’re testing you to see if you’ll abandon them, too. When you don’t abandon them, they have to face themselves. So put up the chicken wire and duck the rotten tomatoes as best you can.


While ducking, hold a vision of your son filled with hope and light. This will help you believe in him and expect the best from him. If prayer is part of your life, this is a good time to use it. Steer clear of retaliating. Ultimatums and doom-and-gloom scenarios will only push him away.


There’s more and the teens say it best:


From Farren, 18: You did the right thing in a tough spot, so don’t get yourself down. It’s natural that your son is upset with you because you invaded his privacy and his personal space. Not that, under the circumstances, that was a bad thing, but to him it’s probably a little frightening.


Talk to him. Let him know you’re worried and that you want to understand what is going on in his life. Since you used pot in the past, this is a good way to open up to him and let him know you’ve been through tough times, too.


I don’t believe punishment or hard love will help your son, but I do believe communication can turn things around.


From Lennon, 19: You did the right thing to drug test him. He hates you for it right now, but it’s one of those things he’ll appreciate eventually. Regarding how to communicate with him, sometimes guys just need to stew things over. If you’re always nit-picking him—or even if you’re always saying you love him—it will remind him that he’s screwing up and he’ll just get madder and will keep pitting himself against you. I’m not saying don’t try to talk with him, I’m just saying guys need the space to sit with things. Don’t force it.

——-

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