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Troubled Son Using Drugs

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son is in his junior year of high school and he's in jeopardy of not graduating. I have spoken with teachers, counselors, and nothing is working. He also was arrested for marijuana possession and was under professional counseling until the therapist became upset because latest drug test was positive. I am looking at getting him into private or military school because he has the capabilities but is lazy. Any suggestions?

A: As you well know, your son is "talking" very loudly through his actions. I would guess that he is "saying" that he is overwhelmed, scared, angry, frustrated and possibly depressed and hopeless. Right now, his power may be in being the "kid that no one can control or help." Everyone seems to have given up trying and, of course, he is to blame for being the kid who just refuses to get it together.

Maybe the proposed solutions and approaches need to be more creative. I'm distressed that his therapist bailed out because he tested positive for marijuana, although I do know that some therapists make contracts with people to treat them as long as they stay off drugs/alcohol. I find that approach very counter-productive and punitive.

I would have no problem professionally with your searching out some private schools and military schools that are experienced in dealing with kids who are behaving like your son. I would be very careful to select one(s) that rely on small classes and individualized comprehensive treatment rather than punitive measures. I'd also search for a therapist who would hang in with your son, challenge him and support him. Your son should be allowed to participate in these choices, but don't be surprised if he plays the role of resentful, angry victim. Some professional counseling for you, especially during these tough times, would be a good idea.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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