So, you just found out your son is smoking pot. The details may vary, but it is probably something like the following. You found pot or paraphernalia in his room. You saw a suspicious text message or a social media posting. Maybe he came home clearly high. Or maybe you heard a story from one of his friends or another parent.
Before you freak out, finish reading this post and avoid doing something you may regret. Here are five things that you can do when you either have proof or suspicion that your son is smoking pot.
1. Talk it out with your spouse/partner/friend and come up with a solid plan
This may be a complete surprise to you or you may have had a hunch he has been smoking. Either way you will have some understandable emotional reactions. Everything from anger to anxiety is totally normal. It is a good idea to think through your plan of action before you address it with your son.
Find a trusted person to bounce ideas off of. It could be your spouse, your partner, a friend or even a medical or mental health professional. You probably need to vent and have a chance to talk through your personal reactions. You may have an urge to respond harshly or take some actions that could be less than helpful. A trusted person will help you think about all the different angles and find some productive ways to approach dealing with it.
Here are a few things to consider doing before you talk to your son.
- Do a thorough room search
- Do some research on drug testing
- Do some research on marijuana and the developing teen brain
- Come up with some logical consequences
2. Try to figure out the reasons your son may be smoking
Drug and alcohol use is usually a symptom of more concerning emotional or social issues. It can be easy to focus only on stopping the behavior. Of course you want him to stop smoking pot, but it will be incredibly helpful if you can find some understanding about what is going on under the surface. You may have a pretty good guess about his struggles or you may have more questions than answers.
Here are some of the potential reasons that adolescents smoke pot.
- Plain old curiosity
- He is bored and smoking makes life more “interesting”
- Peer acceptance or peer pressure
- Dealing with stress, anxiety or depression
- Trying to cope with insomnia
- Misperception that it is harmless
- Family history of addiction that makes him vulnerable
If you approach your son from a standpoint of curiosity and caring there is a better chance you will have a successful conversation. With that said, try not to make too many assumptions or tell him you are certain of the reasons he is smoking. He will likely react negatively and feel the need to prove you wrong.
3. Have the inevitable sit down talk
Depending on your parenting style you may be chomping at the bit to confront him or you may be dreading the conversation. It is important to be honest and straightforward with him. Present the facts that you know without much accusation or assumption. Be prepared to clearly lay out your expectations, the family “no use policy” and the associated consequences. He needs to know exactly what he is risking if he continues to smoke pot.
There is no way to know how this conversation will go, although you may have some intuition about whether it will be calm or conflictual. You can probably expect to face some denial, lying, anger,general excuses and maybe even some accusations about your parenting. He may have done all the “research” and try to make the point that smoking weed is perfectly fine and you should get him a medical marijuana card. There will always be the possibility that the conversation could go terribly wrong even if you have an excellent plan. That is OK and you can definitely recover.
It is important for you to keep your cool and address the issue with as much love and compassion as possible. There is a chance that this will be enough. Your son may respond to your consequences and decide he wants change his course. Maybe he was just experimenting, but now realizes that it is not a good choice and he wants to avoid losing privileges in the future. If so, that is a great outcome. Crisis averted!
4. Get an assessment by a qualified professional
If the initial conversation does not go well and his marijuana use continues you will have to take some further action. The first step is to get a really good assessment by a qualified professional. This will likely be either a trained mental health professional or your family physician. You want someone who has experience both with adolescents and with substance abuse issues. The assessment can confirm the existence of a problem, identify the nature of the problem and also suggest appropriate avenues of treatment.
Your son may benefit from mental health counseling, whether it is just for him or also for your whole family. If the problem is more significant he may need to participate in an outpatient drug program or a more serious intervention such as a residential drug program.
Find out how Guilford Family Counseling can help. We provide counseling for teens, young adults and families in Santa Rosa, California.
5. Make sure you follow through with your plan
For many teenagers experimenting with drugs and alcohol is a rite of passage. Here in California it is challenging to find a high school student who has not smoked pot at least once. There are certainly exceptions, but marijuana has absolutely become a part of youth culture. While experimentation may be inevitable, you do not have to accept ongoing drug use from your son.
You can definitely intervene and give him a solid chance to be successful and happy without drugs and alcohol. It may be tempting to think that “a little pot use” is just normal and it is simply a phase that all teenagers go through. You may want to turn a blind eye and not deal with the problem. However, it is important to follow through with your planned intervention whether your son is a casual experimenter or a more serious marijuana user.
There are many helpful resources online and in your local community. Here are just a few for you.
1. Check out this free 12 page eBook from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Intervention eBook: What to do if your child is drinking or using drugs.
2. If you happen to be in the Sonoma County area of California you should definitely check out an excellent program called Kids Off Chemicals. It is an outpatient substance abuse program that is specifically designed for adolescent boys.
3. Cannabis Use and Youth: A parent’s guide – This is an in depth post that covers many marijuana related myths and offers super helpful parenting tips as well.