One of the prime signs of drug use is a decline in participation in activities and a change in behavior. During the school year, this can mean skipping classes or even a decline in their grades. Outside of school, they may avoid time with family and their usual groups of friends. Many teenagers naturally experience a change in mood, personality, and need more “alone time” during these years, but if there is a drastic disconnect between family, friends, and regular activities, then it is time to talk.
Be respectful of the time that children need alone, but as a parent, make sure to allocate time for them. Find opportunities to spend time with them in an environment where they are comfortable (dinner, sporting event, visit to the mall) and let the conversation develop naturally.
Be wary of new friends. The interest in spending time with new or different groups could be a sign of drug use. It is natural for many teenagers to develop a variety of different friends. Be sure to know whom they spend time with, and what home situations exist within the households of these friends. Additionally, teenage romantic relationships can often come with pressures to adopt certain behaviors and opinions, including drug experimentation or use.
Ask questions about new friends and demonstrate a genuine interest in the types of people with whom they are spending time. Relate to them by sharing personal stories about friends from junior high school, high school, and college. Take the time to learn who their new friends are and ask about their parents and home situation. Be engaged in activities, organizations, or events that give access to the parents of friends.
Children might feel uncomfortable discussing situations or relationships where drugs have been introduced. Find times to just listen and offer opportunities to discuss issues related to drug use. Look for issues and situations in the news, TV shows, music, and movies that allow you to open up a dialogue about issues related to drug use and abuse.
By Annmarie Dallao
ARCpoint Labs of Reading