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Talking About Drug Use

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

Q: I think my almost 17 year-old student has tried pot. Are the terms 'hotboxing' and '4:20' referring to that? I know it would be natural for her at her age to try it. She is a 4.0 student, well versed on the bad effects of drugs. But we have a poor mother-daughter relationship, and I don't know how to respond to this discovery. Confrontation would only make her get defensive and she is highly independent. My fear is she may leave home. Ideas?

A: Hearing drug culture terms is certainly no guarantee that your daughter is using drugs of any kind. There are clearly other more significant clues that you are responding to that cause you to question her possible drug use.

It seems that you may be afraid to approach your independent, strong-willed, academically accomplished daughter on any serious matter, for fear that she would become defensive, angry and possibly leave home. I would say that a relationship that is so poor and tenuous should be the focus of your concerns with her, rather than whether she has tried marijuana. Talking with your daughter about any serious concerns you have about her behavior should not be compromised by your fears of her leaving home.

If you are concerned about her possible drug use, I would ask her open-ended, non-accusatory questions that suggest your knowledge of drug use and your concern for her if she is using drugs. My professional advice would be to get some individual professional counseling from a therapist experienced in family dynamics. I'd also give these books a look: "All Grown Up and No Place to Go," by David Elkind, "When Good Kids Do Bad Things," by Katherine Gordy Levine and 'You and Your Adolescent (Revised Edition)," by Laurence Steinberg.

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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 FamilyEducation.com 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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