Dear Straight Talk: My son, 16, recently started working a restaurant swing shift on Friday nights and weekends. The problem is he comes home looking out of sorts. I don’t smell alcohol, but he looks strange in the eyes, not like himself. My mother’s intuition says it’s drugs — so many kids and even parents smoke pot today. But I’m too timid to ask him! Plus wouldn’t he just deny it? Disciplining him hasn’t been an issue till now. I’m not strong emotionally and he’s a foot taller than me. Please help. — Timid Mom, Monterey County
Gregg, 22, Los Angeles: I agree your son is using drugs. Asking him is your best first move. When I first started using pot, my mother wasn’t bold either, but she did have a nose for it and put a voice to it. I knew she knew. She eventually joined forces with my dad and got me help.
Ashley, 25, Auburn: Trust your instincts. My mom always knew when I was up to something and she ALWAYS called me out on it. I hated it, but I’m glad for it. Are you going to just let him sit in your house high? If you don’t let him know this isn’t okay, what’s next? You could end up supporting a bad (or deadly) habit — and once he’s 18, your hands are really tied. Stop being timid. This is your son, not some random person! You are his authority figure; show him that.
Moriah, 17, Rutand, Vt.: Bring it up now. If we think parents are oblivious, we think we’re getting away with things. If we know they know, even if we don’t confess, it affects our decisions.
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: Marijuana is like alcohol. Some adults are creative savants after a couple beers, others need a hard slap or it takes over their lives. When you see a red flag, you must act — and sooner is better. Despite his size, do you have reason to fear him? If not, give him the news straight. Some parents take their kids to see drug offenders in jail. Others take privileges away. As much as it tests you to do something drastic, you must not be an enabler.
Molly, 22, Berkeley: It’s absolutely acceptable to drug test your child if he or she shows signs of being very much not themselves. That said, first tell him, calmly, that you’ve noticed behavior changes. Many parents get overly emotional and we interpret their upset as “unsafe to share.” Approach him with “Are you okay? How can I help you?” Be open and listen. Is he depressed? Did a girl reject him?
Ryann, 17, Tustin: The “normalization” of drug use is so alarming! Pot is proven to reduce IQ in the developing brain. Your own emotional fragility cannot hold you back from stepping up. Take him and go see a counselor. Or have a friend help you talk to him. This is your job!
Dear Timid Mom: Read carefully: Each panelist says something important and accurate. I agree that your son is using drugs — many teens get introduced at their first jobs. The “off” look behind the eye is a red flag. Adolescent pot use is harmful and indeed lowers IQ. Even if you weren’t timid, it takes a village. Get unified help from his father, family, or friends. Fact: Boys respond best to loss of privileges (not including sports or school). Something like, “Look, son. Drug use? Not on my watch. Period. If it continues, your driving privileges/this job/video games/etc., are over.” Explain that you’ll use drug testing to separate fact from fiction if the behavior continues. Then follow through accordingly. — Lauren
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