Deceptions of Teen Drug Use

When it comes to drug or alcohol use, we parents want to give our kids the benefit of the doubt. But for some kids, there are signs that something is different, and that’s when we should be on our toes. The phrase benefit of the doubt is defined as, “a favorable opinion adopted despite uncertainty.” Do you experience uncertainty? Do you wonder if your child has been using drugs or alcohol? Does he or she act, speak, reason or look differently?

Statistics show that 1 in 4 high school seniors use an illicit drug once a month; 1 in 5 use weekly; 1 in 10 use daily. Drug use is no respecter of religious versus non-religious, public versus private school kids.  And because today’s drugs, especially pot, are far more potent than in the 70’s, teenagers become addicted more quickly and overdose more easily. But the fastest growing “drugs” of choice today are common household items like aerosols, glues, prescription drugs, pain killers, cold medications, and prescription medications used to treat anxiety or Attention Deficit Disorders.

Teenagers use drugs for many reasons that have to do with how they feel about themselves, how they get along with others, and how they live. They generally use drugs or alcohol to either fit in or to dull the pain they feel in their life.  No one indicator will determine who is using drugs and who is not, but here are some signs to watch for, beyond simply finding drugs, drug paraphernalia or obvious physical symptoms:

Dropping grades and lack of concern for school performance.

Suddenly aggressive or unusually rebellious behavior.

Excessive influence by new friends and a need to be with them at all hours.

Disconnection from family and from old friends.

Turning away from everything they once held dear.

If you ask a drug or alcohol abusing teenager how it has affected their life, they probably won’t know and won’t care very much. But if you ask them if using drugs has changed their relationships, they will undoubtedly say “yes.” So look for this one important key to discovering if your child is using drugs. Keep an eye on their relationships.

It is easier to trust your child wouldn’t lie about taking drugs, but all drug abusers are proficient liars. They’ll look you straight in the face and not flinch, while claiming that they wouldn’t think of using drugs. That’s probably why the average parent fails to confirm their teenager is using drugs until their teen has already been using for two years. That’s long enough for casual use to turn into regular use, or for the teen to step up to more dangerous drugs.

The fact of the matter is that addicts must lie if they are going to protect their ability to continue to use. Lying, deceit, cheating and dishonesty are part and parcel of drug use, not because your teen is a born liar or a born cheat, but because the addicted body needs drugs or alcohol in order to function. Lying is one way to protect oneself and avoid detection.

Always remember this: for an addicted person symptoms of withdrawal are like poison. But withdrawal is also the cure. What hurts the brain also makes the brain feel better. What hurts an addict in the short run can heal an addict in the long run.

Addiction literally rewires the brain. The addiction says, “Give me more or you will go through pain.” The addict knows the pain of not using (withdrawal) and they’ll do or say anything to those they love, just to avoid being caught.

Parents must play a key role in intervening and getting the right kind of help for themselves and for their teen.

When you suspect your child might be using drugs, the faster you can find out for sure, the better. Jump in and be authoritative, decisive and strong, like a man or woman of steel when facing down drug use or drug addiction. When they are using alcohol or drugs on a regular basis, kids can be incredibly manipulative and they will lie. They will shift the blame and make it your responsibility or fault. They become masters of deception, and their angry outbursts over your “distrust” of them can be dismaying.

Parents of drug or alcohol abusers need to remember their parental role. They need to rise above their anger and not take it personally. This will help them be more effective in their efforts to test for drugs and to get their teen some help if drug use is discovered. To tell your teen to stop, to threaten consequences, or to separate them from their friends probably won’t be an effective deterrent if the teen has been using for any length of time.

Remember this; the addicted teenager who is screaming at you, breaking your rules, or lying to your face, is under an intoxicating influence, even when they are not intoxicated. These influences can continue for months after the teen stops using. So, your enemy is not your child. Your enemy is the cravings that have taken over your child’s life, heart, and spirit. And for that, you’ll probably need some outside help.

Be honest with yourself about your own rationalizations, fear, and denial. Chances are, you are trying real hard to talk yourself out of your fears, or making excuses for your child such as blaming it all on your child’s friends, or dismissing their casual pot use as a teenage fad. None of that is going to help your child.

If you suspect your teen may be involved in drugs or alcohol, don’t wait. Find a way to get them tested. There are over the counter drug tests at your local pharmacy. An instant and inexpensive home urine test will determine what drugs have been used, if any, in the past 30 days.  Or, with a few hair follicles from a comb or brush, you can discretely test your child for drug use. The hair follicle test can discover drugs used in the past 90 days.

Some Important and Startling Facts

The average age for kids to begin experimenting with illegal substances is age 13.

60% of youngsters who use marijuana before age 15, go on to use cocaine.

Marijuana users are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than their non-marijuana smoking peers.

The potency of marijuana (THC) levels today is 15-20 times stronger than in the 1970’s.

Concerning a Parent’s Responsibility Did You Know:

Most medical insurance policies have a clause that allows them to not pay a medical claim “if there is an illegal substance in the system, or an illegal act is being performed at the time of the loss.” Parents can be held legally responsible for those medical bills.

If a child brings any amount of a controlled substance into their parent’s home or auto, the parent could have that home or auto seized, regardless of having no knowledge of their child’s behavior.

Average cost of drug rehabilitation is more than $20,000 a month, with few medical insurers paying anything on such a claim.

Parents of drug or alcohol using teenagers often feel intimidated, and face a lot of frustration. They face heartbreaking days ahead if their teenager is caught in the web of addiction. The key is to catch drug use and put a stop to it before it turns to addiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program.  Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.

 

 


When Your Teen Lies… Like a Rug

Have you noticed that you never have to teach a toddler how to lie? A baby could have chocolate smeared all over her face and crumbs all over her clothes, but when you ask, “Did you eat that cookie?” your precious two-year-old will put on a bold-face and tell you, “No, I didn’t!” But it’s not just babies. All of us can recall times when we’ve lied, fibbed, stretched the truth, or omitted incriminating facts. From the moment we learned how to talk, all of us innately know to be dishonest. Some psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that lying is just a phase that most children will abandon as they mature. But the truth is (pun intended) that lying is not a phase we grow out of, but a habit that we grow into.

In fact, a recent survey revealed that 96% of teens lie regularly. The Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth shows that 61% of teens admit to lying to a teacher about something important, and a whopping 76% admitted to lying to their parents last year. Another study, this one conducted in Britain, indicates that an overwhelming 84% of teens said they’ve regularly copied information from the Internet and pasted it right into their homework.

It’s safe to say that if you’re the parent of a pre-teen or a teen, dishonesty is likely an issue in your family. Maybe it’s a growing issue. Perhaps your son and daughter are lying so much, you’re having a problem trusting them at all. But whether your child is telling little white lies, or is habitual lying, there are ways to help your child speak the truth.

Why Lie?

Before we start pointing fingers, it’s helpful to understand why our teen may be resorting to dishonest behavior. Most lying is a short-term solution for protecting relationships. Fearful of being unloved or disliked by parents, teachers or peers, teens will resort to lying. What if my parents knew I wasn’t a good student? What if they knew I smoked weed? How could they love me if they knew what I did?” Most lying doesn’t occur because a child is bad and deliberately wants to deceive you. Instead, teens lie because they care about what you think about them. They are scared about losing your love, care or attention. Now, this is not an excuse for dishonesty. But it helps us to approach our kids with grace when we catch them lying.

Create an Environment of Truth

If your teen has told you that they were scared to tell the truth, it’s time to reshape your home to be a place where truth is encouraged. Make honesty a family value—one that everyone is held to (including mom and dad). When your teen is brave enough to come clean, applaud and commend them for telling the truth. Begin each of those hard conversations with “I am so glad you told me the truth.” Reinforce the notion that lying may be a short-term solution, but it damages long-term relationships. Explain to your kids how deceit breaks trust—the trust that strong relationships are built on. It’s better to tell the truth and deal with the consequences, than to lie and risk the relationship altogether. Above and beyond all those messages, reiterate to your children what you’ll often hear from me—“There’s nothing you could do to make me love you more, and there’s nothing you could do to make me love you less.” A reassurance of your unconditional love will create an environment that allows your teen to tell the truth without fear of losing mom and dad’s affection or love.

Don’t Avoid or Ignore the Problem

While dishonesty may seem like a minor issue in comparison to other problems like drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and eating disorders, it is still a vice that parents should not ignore. If you gloss over your teen’s dishonest actions today, you may have to deal with bigger problems later. A tendency towards deceit won’t go away with the mere passage of time. It will reappear at significant stress points later in your child’s life—when they go off to college, get a job, or get married. And a pattern of deceit must be seriously addressed with love. Getting away with lying can lead your teen to experience real heartache in the future.

If you’ve seen dishonesty creeping into the way your teen talks or acts, or if you learn they have cheated or stolen something, today is the day to expose it. First, briefly describe the dishonest behavior, showing that you know what happened. Second, tell your teen how you feel about their behavior and explain why this action is neither wise nor moral. Then, most importantly, affirm that you know they can do better. Let your teen know that you believe they can change their behavior. Give them the confidence to do what’s right.  After your discussion, have your teen right the wrong by confessing to whomever was harmed by the dishonesty or cheating, reimbursing for any theft or damages. Finally, enforce appropriate consequences and make sure your teen knows that you will be on the lookout for any form of dishonesty in the future. Holding your teen accountable is key to their growth and change.

Give Them Time to Tell the Truth

Lying is often an initial, knee-jerk response. So if your teen is struggling with lying, give them time to tell the truth. It works like this—when you confront your child with the discovery of an issue, follow up by saying, “You don’t have to answer right now. Why don’t you think about it, and get back to me tomorrow.” This takes away your child’s need to dodge the question by lying, and gives a teen time to tell the truth. Plus, you are not pointing the finger and demanding that your teen shamefully ‘fess up on the spot. Rather, you’re allowing your teen to make his or her own decision to tell the truth. This actually empowers your child to make the right choice and gives him or her time to be honest.

Practice Honesty Yourself

Also, be sure to model honesty yourself—make it a habit to be truthful. At a young age, kids think in very black and white terms. They don’t understand the reasons why you wouldn’t tell them the truth, even if you are trying to protect them from something. All they can see is, “Mom or dad lied to me.” So even when it’s difficult or hard, make it a point to be honest with your family at all times. As they get older, teens are extremely intuitive and they can spot hypocrisy a mile away. If you know you’ve been dishonest in front of your teen, ask their forgiveness, and give yourself some consequences for the bad behavior so your teen knows how important it is to be honest.

One of my biggest regrets happened earlier in my ministry. Some parents had called me to say that their son, who was to accompany me to a teen rehabilitation center, had run away. So I got in my car, and drove down to a nearby KISS concert, where I found the young man. Trying not to make a scene, I lied, and told him that his parents had been in an accident, and that he needed to come with me. Once in the car, I confessed, and said his parents were okay, and that we’re going to the rehabilitation center instead. It was a lie that this young man had a difficult time forgiving me for. He returned many times to the center, and each time reminded me of my dishonesty. Even many years after the fact, when I got to see him again, he said, “Remember when you lied to me?” Mom and dad, teens who struggle with lying need you to be an honesty role model. Live out Proverbs 8:7 and your teen will follow suit: I always speak the truth and refuse to tell a lie.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


A Calming Prescription for Frustrated Parents

What is it about teenagers that makes it so easy for them to get under our skin?  We love our kids, for sure.  But between the ages of 12 and 20, teens really start to develop and refine the unique ability to raise our blood pressure!  Maybe it’s because we care about our kids so much that they can invoke such strong reactions in us.  I’ve loved every one of the 3,000 kids who have made their way through the doors of our Heartlight campus.  But let me tell you; there were times I was so frustrated with a teen’s behavior or attitude, I was about ready to put him on the next ferry to Iceland and wish him Bon Voyage!

Maybe, like me, you can point to every gray hair on your head and explain how your teen gave you that particular shade.  Or perhaps the constant tension and frustration in your home is tearing the family apart.  You’re fighting with your spouse more.  You’re spending less time at home.  You’re having trouble eating or sleeping.  Maybe the aggravation has built up so much that, although you wouldn’t say it aloud, deep down, you do not like your child right now.

If you’re a frustrated mom or dad, you’re in good company!  Certain teen behaviors increase the agitation between parents and children.  If you want to stop feeling the urge to bang your head against the wall every time you talk with your child, here are some ways to correct their actions.

Selfishness

If the egotism of your son or daughter is giving you ulcers, it’s time to inject a little humility into their lives.  One way to do this is to stop revolving your life around your teen.  If mom and dad act like their kid is the center of the universe, a planet-sized ego will be the result.  So don’t put your child in the center of your life.  That’s a place reserved only for God.  Secondly, give your selfish teen responsibilities.  Let them babysit the kids on your next date night.  Put them in charge of feeding the dog.  Make them responsible for getting up for school on their own, and finishing homework on time.  You’ll be well on your way to curing that selfish teen.

Disrespect

Disrespectful behavior is a sure fire way to get parent’s blood to boil.  If your teen is treating you with disdain, don’t pull your hair out just yet.  The truth is, disrespect problems are really relationship problems.  Work on your relationship with your teen, and chances are respect will follow right behind.

Also, enact fair and reasonable boundaries for your home, with clear consequences.  And, most importantly, follow though!  If the punishment for swearing is a month without a phone, then make sure your teen spends a month without a phone.  If breaking curfew means doing the family laundry for a week, then don’t start running the washer after only three days!  Clear boundaries and deliberate consequences can restore a level of respect in your home, and calm the tension in your family.

Unmotivated

Many moms and dads have come up to me to say, “Mark, our son won’t get off the couch, and it’s driving us up a wall!  What do we do?

I have a donkey on my ranch named Toy.  Now, Toy is a sweet, gentle animal.  But she is stubborn!  She won’t do anything unless she really wants to.  I literally have to dangle a carrot in front of her to even get her to move a few steps.  Now, I’m not comparing teens to donkeys (but if you want to, that’s fine by me!)  But like a stubborn mule, to motivate a lethargic teen, you have to show them what they will get out it.  Give them a reason to get a job, go to class, make some friends, or turn off the TV.  Make them believe that it’s in their best interest to act.  Offer your son or daughter incentives, and it’s likely they’ll motivate themselves.

Dishonesty

A dishonest teen is a major frustration for any parent.  It’s hard to build trust or strengthen a relationship with someone who cannot be taken at his word.  If you wonder why your teen is constantly lying to you, let me offer a little insight.  Teenagers live in a performance culture.  Every day it’s a competition with others to climb up the social totem pole.  So when your son or daughter feels that they cannot match up to their peers or earn their respect or value, they will lie to bolster their self-image.

For many teens, a lie is also a way to protect their relationships.  They’re fearful that if mom and dad knew what they did, said, thought, or failed at, you would turn your back and stop loving them.  Lying is a deceitful way (in more ways than one) for your teen to hold on to precious connections.

Lying is not only frustrating to parents; it’s also destructive to a family.  As with disrespect, this behavior has to be dealt with head-on and immediately.  Start by reaffirming as often as possible that there is nothing your son or daughter could do to make you love them more or make you love them less.  But explain that lying destroys relationships, and that it cannot happen in your family.  Even if the truth is something you don’t want to hear, thank your daughter when she does share honestly.  Commend your son when he tells you the truth.  And be a good example.  Plant yourself firmly in the truth, and force your kids to do the same.

Anger

When your teen gets angry and then you get angry, it snowballs into mounting frustrations, raw nerves, and stressful family life.  If dealing with an angry teen is making you see red, let me share some tips for cooling down the situation.

First, anger is a reaction to a need that’s unmet.  A teen is not getting what he or she wants, and the result is rage.  So when your kid starts the next outburst, calmly ask, “What is it that you want?”  Get your teen to verbalize what is making them so angry.  Once they share, try to work out how both of you can make it happen.  Sometimes it’s not a reasonable request, and you have to honestly tell your child, “I don’t think that’s possible right now.”  Other times, it’s a need that can be met very simply, and the anger is readily defused.

Second, don’t wait for the next eruption to see what your child needs.  Spend regular time catching up with your teen and asking, “What is making you the most happy right now?  What is frustrating you the most right now?”  If you let your child bottle up everything they are feeling, it will only make the resulting explosion that much bigger.  Communicate openly, ask clear questions, and you’ll be able to decrease the level of frustration in your home.

Mom and Dad, maybe your teen exhibits some of these behaviors, or perhaps shows signs of all of them!  No doubt this can be frustrating.  But remember this; God is teaching us right alongside our kids.  Just like teens need to mature and grow, so parents are maturing and growing with them.  Use those aggravating moments at home to stop and think, “What is God trying to teach me right now?”  The sooner you answer that question, the quicker you’ll learn the lesson God has for you.

Also, don’t play doctor in your home.  A physician’s job is to always be hunting for problems.  Unfortunately, some parents act the same way.  Even when family life is great, they are turning over every rock and leaf looking for the next issue.  If your home is experiencing a time of peace, enjoy it!  Praise God for it!  And if you are experiencing some hard times right now, focus on the problem at hand and don’t go searching for new difficulties to fix.  That will only lead to frustration.

Finally, pray every day.  Don’t let a day go by where you don’t bring your kids, spouse and home to the Lord and ask for protection, healing and direction.  Let God’s peace take the place of frustration in your heart.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.