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Making Choices

Taken from:
Saanich News July 6, 2005

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Family Counsellor

Dear Paul

Recently my 16 year old son told me that someone was at his school selling crystal meth. He says he could buy a pouch of marijuana in a heart beat. There’s some scary drugs around our kids these days. What do you say to parents worried about these kinds of temptations?


Well, Linda it’s a disturbing fact that we live in a drug-enchanted, drug-taking society. As an indicator, according to The Canadian Addiction Survey of 2004, almost 30% of 15-17-year-olds had a first experience with marijuana in the past year.

Lots of young people test and experiment with new things, deliberately pushing the limits, so it’s not surprising that some of our young people will try illegal drugs. Fortunately for those who try, most will not go on using drugs regularly; only a few will develop serious problems.

However, let’s be clear. This is not just a few “puffs” behind the barn. There are many different drugs around that are dangerous, expensive and highly addictive.

What can I say to parents regarding this situation?

As parents, I’m sure you are familiar with the preventative prescriptions. 1. Your child’s self esteem and 2: Their participation in life. This begins long before high school.

Your children’s interest and involvement in healthy positive activities, sports, clubs, groups, with others who share their interest, is one of your surest preventative inoculations. In high school, kids who are engaged, busy, participating – kids with healthy identifications, and developing talents and interests - are clearly much more likely to “just say no.”

Then there’s another avenue of protection. Looking after our open communication with our kids. And, if they are in high school, this includes talking about the real choices that are right in front of them. The truth is these choices are beginning to genuinely belong to them.

In the next few years decisions will be made about what school and school achievement really means to them, about sex, body piercings, dating, their choice of friends, their future, drinking, drugs, driving, parties, etc.

Their new and growing independence is the next new step for you both. As parents, we are passing back to them the responsibility for their own life. That occurs over the next few years as they decide where THEY stand on these choices in front of them. We empower them with our curiosity, confidence, applause, reminders, some information, and our non judgemental listening.

But what if you suspect, or even know, your son or daughter is taking drugs or routinely drinking alcohol ?

At times like this, there’s no point “having that fight” because you’re frightened. . No punishments, loud voices or lectures ever prevented drug usage.

So don’t panic. Don’t ignore - and don’t react immediately. You have to learn more.

What are the signs of use of this particular drug or drugs? How would you know? What is he or she really doing? How can you educate yourself ? Who can you talk too?

Once you have informed yourself and found resources for yourself, once you have got clear on what you want to say, communicate. Be calm, strong and clear about what you want and expect of them. Avoid quarrels. Succinctly say what it is you want and expect. Express your fears. And lastly, keep listening.

What you say needs to come from a place of caring and commitment to them and to their future.

What if, after this, your teenager’s involvement with drugs continues and begins to disrupt his life and yours ?

Take a stronger stand. Register yourself in a specialized drug or alcohol treatment program. Visit and participate on a regular basis. Meet with a rehab counsellor and other parents experiencing the same challenge.

To our sons or daughters our message will be: “I’m worried, I won’t stand by, I don’t go along with this. As long as this is occurring I am going to a program that will support me in my stand for you, for us. This matters to me and I will not simply accept this.”

I assure you, you simply don’t have to take on something like this on by yourselves. In a climate of mutual understanding, new learning and support you use your challenge to grow.

Lastly, if you thought the drug taking was indicative of other difficulties or issues for your child or in your family, call a professional. Meet as a family. Get the assistance that can support you and make real and positive things happen out of the crisis.

Adolescence is the most difficult of times. Our youngsters are pulling away from us showing us that we really are not in charge of them anymore. But all of our lives our children have been pulling away from us. Remember the first time they walked to school by themselves, they had their first sleep over, or went to camp on their own?

As a parent, you have always been letting go - and watching with care. You’ve always been there for them until they can master the next step on their own.

Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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