My 17-year-old daughter is not making friends at school. She does fine academically but she doesn’t hang around with her old friends because they’re doing drugs. How can I help my daughter develop new friendships so she has a social outlet without seeming like I’m trying to control the issue?
Your daughter has made a good decision to stop spending time with friends who are doing drugs. Unfortunately, that decision has come with the consequences of not having any friends for a time. You may want to encourage your daughter to get a part-time job. It could help her to adjust to a new routine and provide the opportunity for her to meet a new set of people who are different from her old friends at school.
The more social settings your daughter experiences now, the better she will be able to handle things when she is on her own, perhaps in college or supporting herself with a job. Help your daughter identify her God-given talents and interests. Then, help her find activities that involve those interests. A club, group or job that is centered on her interests will help her develop her natural abilities and make new friends.
I found marijuana in my 14-year-old son’s room. I don't know how to respond or what to say to him. He is entering high school and I am worried that the problem is going to get bigger.
As a teenager, your son is trying new things, is easily influenced by his peers and doesn’t always exercise good problem-solving skills. It’s your responsibility to keep him safe. Smoking pot is unsafe, so you want him to stop using it. Like any negative behavior he may engage in, we recommend you teach to it. There are four steps to follow when teaching:
- Stop the problem behavior by calmly describing what happened. "Son, I found pot in your room when I was in there this morning."
- Describe the consequences for what happened. “Because you had an illegal substance in our home, you will be required to attend a substance abuse class beginning on ____ and we will search your room on a regular basis.”
- Describe what he should do instead of using or bringing pot into your home. "The next time you are out with friends and someone offers you some pot, it would be a better choice for you to say, ‘No.’ If we find pot again or find out that you’ve been using it, it will cost you the privilege of going out with your friends.”
- Have him practice what you have taught him. "Okay son, show me how you will handle the next time you are tempted to use or bring pot home." (Your son should say something like, "No guys, if my mom finds pot in our home again or finds out I’ve been using it, I probably won't be going out with you again."
Let your son know this is a trust issue and he has broken your trust by using or bringing pot into your home. Let him know that if his using it or even having it in his possession continues, the consequences will be more serious and his free time will be restricted. He can rebuild trust by being honest, obeying house rules and being respectful.
To find substance abuse prevention classes, call your local police department or the local United Way 211 and ask for substance abuse prevention programs.
Our 12-year-old son has undergone a drastic change in his personality. He used to earn straight As and was in the gifted and talented program at school. He had plenty of good friends and was responsible. Now he does not care about school, which is reflected in his falling grades. He is openly defiant and challenges authority in a rebellious, disrespectful manner. He still has his old friends, but he is also hanging out with a group of kids that we have deemed to be a bad influence. Now he is stealing from us.
We have tried every conceivable consequence: removal of privileges, removal of electronic devices and removal of all items in his room except his bed and clothing. We have talked to him frankly about the value of hard work and earning what you have.
He has basic household chores, and he will work this summer at my husband’s business sweeping floors, etc. We are also placing him in a Bible/mentoring program to reinforce a sense of morals and personal responsibility. We are at a loss about how else to handle this situation.
You mention many good strategies, but you did not say what your son is doing with the money he is stealing. Is he buying things with it or giving it to other kids? What is he doing to make up for the stealing? If this behavior continues, he runs the risk of earning jail time. There has to be consequences and restitution.
Do you suspect that he is smoking pot or using any other illegal substances? There are kids all over the country taking advantage of a substance that can be purchased online or possibly at a mall. It is called K-2. It affects each child differently, mostly because it is a manmade chemical that is applied to natural leaves. This may be the cause of your son’s personality change.
Since he is not responding to traditional consequences, have him evaluated by a counselor or someone who works with substance abuse. Sometimes parents are too emotionally close to a situation to see what is really going on.
My 13-year-old grandson lives with his grandfather and myself. He is completely out of control. He will not shower or maintain basic good hygiene. He refuses to do simple chores around the house. He has a foul mouth and calls us names I can’t even write down. We are in our 80s and are unable to physically control him. Is Boys Town willing to take him in?
Your grandson is struggling with out-of-control behaviors to the point where intervention is needed. If you have not done so already, have your grandson evaluated for mental health conditions. Has he had substance abuse treatment? Does he receive counseling, or is he on medication? Do you go to family counseling? Have you tried any special academic programs or day treatment programs?
It sounds like you want your grandson to be placed outside the home. It is important to exhaust all local resources before placing your son at Boys Town. There are documents you will need to gather before going through the admissions process. These are a psychological or psychiatric evaluation performed within the last six months by a psychologist or psychiatrist; pertinent school information such as transcripts, individualized educational plans and behavioral reports; and a letter from the youth explaining why he wants to come to Boys Town.
This letter needs to include at least one personal goal that he wants to work on while he is at Boys Town (anger issues, academics, coping skills, etc.). This letter usually is the most difficult thing to obtain because many kids do not want to be placed outside of their homes.
Explain what his alternatives are if he doesn’t participate in the program. Once you’ve sent in all the information, the process takes about 30 days if the youth qualifies. Visit our website at www.boystown.org to learn more about the residential program.
It is important that you take care of yourself at this difficult time. Do you have someone to offer support? Though we are not right there with you, we are here 24/7 to support you and your family. Call us anytime at 1-800-448-3000.
Our adult daughter and her 3-year-old son are living with my husband and me. We are concerned about her parenting and its adverse effects on our grandson.
Our daughter is very independent and does not welcome advice from us. She works varied hours, comes home tired and is irritable with her son. She is always telling him “no” and even pushes him away. When I call her attention to this, she snaps at me.
She is not willing to go to parenting classes to improve her skills. She has even left her son in our care so she could live with her boyfriend. Our grandson’s father walked out on them, but now my daughter is thinking of getting back together with him. I have discovered that the two of them smoked crack before our grandson was born and that she smoked marijuana while she was pregnant.
Our affectionate, precious grandson is now waking up in the middle of the night crying. He is not wet, hungry, thirsty, etc. We can’t calm him; it is like he is in a trance and is unaware of his surroundings. During the day, he is loving and attached to his grandfather and me, frequently giving us hugs and kisses. He loves to read and draw and has a good attention span.
Has he been hurt by his mother’s prenatal marijuana use? How can we help him through this difficult time with our daughter’s unsettled behavior?
It is likely that the instability your grandson has experienced is now taking a toll on him emotionally and behaviorally. It sounds like there is tension at home. We strongly encourage you to avoid adult conversations in his presence. Wait until he is asleep or is in another room. Children are smart. They pick up on tension and they know when adults are arguing. Overhearing adult conversations can be confusing for them.
It is also important to provide as much structure and stability as you can since this gives children a sense of emotional and physical safety. If your daughter agrees, establish a consistent daily routine. This will create predictability in your grandson’s day, which will be comforting for him. Children crave routine and respond well to schedules. This, in turn, allows him to feel safe as he navigates the world and interacts with those around him.
It is difficult to know exactly why your grandson is crying at night. He may not be able to express why he is upset because he may not even know the reasons himself. He could be experiencing night terrors. Offer him hugs and kisses. Comfort him. Tuck him back into bed and assure him that he is safe and all is well.
If you are concerned about his prenatal exposure to marijuana, have him evaluated by his pediatrician. And continue to offer him your unconditional love and plenty of praise. Hopefully, your daughter will begin to learn from your example and place her son’s needs before her own. If not, you will remain a consistent source of love and support.
I am very concerned for my sister and her two boys, ages 15 and 11. Her older son has become very aggressive toward his mother and younger brother. He is drinking alcohol and is threatening his family and himself. We don’t know where to turn for help.
Your sister needs to have her 15-year-old son evaluated by a professional. When a teenager becomes violent and threatening, a parent needs to react quickly before someone gets hurt, including the teenager himself. Where is he getting his alcohol? Is the person providing it to any other minors? This is illegal, and it should be promptly dealt with as well.
Boys Town has a database for the entire United States, and we would gladly provide referrals to you or your sister. You can either e-mail us back with the city, state and county where she lives, or you can call our Hotline for the information. Most mental health centers can do an evaluation and make recommendations for further counseling. We have crisis counselors available to talk 24/7. Please give her our phone number: 1-800-448-3000.
My teenage son has had drug issues in the past but is now doing well. However, I am concerned about a new friendship he’s formed with an 18-year-old who is on probation from school right now for using drugs. They work together and carpool to school. He now smells like cigarette smoke but denies smoking. Should we confront him and take all of his privileges away?
It sounds like your son is in the middle of an experimental stage of life, which is normal for teenagers. As parents, it's our job to let our children know when they have gone too far. We do this by creating boundaries and setting limits. Sit down and talk with your son about what your expectations are for him. Perhaps he's not allowed to take this 18-year-old to school anymore or even hang out with him. Make sure each limit, boundary and expectation is laid out very clearly for him, as well as what the consequences will be if these expectations are not met. Then give him a chance to prove himself.
If your son chooses to not follow these rules, immediately start issuing consequences and taking away privileges. Do not take away everything at once because if he chooses to break another rule, you are left with nothing to barter. Try to make your consequences as closely related to the behavior as possible. For example, if he is caught giving this friend a ride to school, he loses the privilege of using the car. What's best may not always be the easiest or make him the happiest, but his safety and growth is your number one concern.
My 16-year-old son is out of control. He started having behavior issues in elementary school and has been kicked out of school repeatedly. He’s using drugs and believes that I owe him everything, despite the TV, computer, clothes and everything else I have already given him. He constantly calls me derogatory names and threatens to hurt anyone that stands in his way or says no to him. The struggle to live with him has gotten overwhelming, and I'm falling apart. How do I find the son I had?
If this is not the son you knew, perhaps drugs are altering his behavior. There are agencies all over the country that will provide you with in-home support and counseling. Just let us know what city and state you are in, and we can connect you with help for you and for your son.
You mentioned that your son is ungrateful for the many things you’ve given him. Those things are privileges that must be earned by demonstrating good behavior. He has them all even though he is treating you worse than anyone deserves to be treated. Don’t attempt to take them from him but do consider shutting off service to his phone and computer.
When he threatens to hurt you, himself, or others, call the police. That kind of behavior warrants a psychological evaluation and possible treatment. Do not allow that to continue. You do not have to live in fear.
I am a single parent who desperately needs help for my son. Since he entered high school a year ago I have seen a decline in his academic performance. He stays out late and sometimes doesn't come home at all. He is smoking marijuana and is affiliated with a gang. He has stolen money from me and damaged property in our home. I have tried everything I know to try to help. I have a strong faith in God and I am praying for him but he needs intervention.
Thank you for reaching out to us for help with your son. Things get a lot more difficult once a child realizes that he can leave the home and survive without you.
Ultimately, this situation requires you to refuse to be a victim. You need to be just as tough and sharp as he is. Protect yourself from being stolen from or manipulated. Since he is still young you definitely have a chance to break him out of this pattern, but your will must be stronger than his.
While he is still living with you, start thinking about the things that you control that he wants. If you control a phone, an activity that he wants to do, money that he wants for entertainment, these things are all tools that you can use to manipulate him into cooperating. If he is a gang member, though, it's likely that he can get all of these things from the gang, so keep that in mind.
Enlist as much support from others as you can. Ask uncles, grandfathers, older cousins, school counselors, therapists, coaches and even other fathers to spend quality time with him. Time and communication are your greatest tools against his gang affiliation. Find ways to keep him spending time with healthy people, and do what you can to keep him from communicating with the gang. Think of the gang as the real addiction, not the drugs.
You'll need to replace the gang with a new support system of strong people. What he wants is to belong and to feel like he has some control in his life. You can't give him everything, but you can point him in the right direction.
If you contact us with specifics about your city and state, we can look for some local programs to help you out.
My 12-year-old grandson has come to live with me. He has a deadbeat dad, and his mother committed suicide last year. Both of his parents had drug issues. This child is angry and resentful. He says he hates his life and hates people. He is disrespectful and rebellious. He says that if I put him in counseling, he will be worse. He is academically behind, and I am concerned that when he goes to school in August I will have more problems.
Thanks for contacting us about this situation with your grandson. Raising grandchildren presents a different level of parenting and can easily become overwhelming. There are support groups for grandparents who need some support with this difficult task.
One thing we recommend is to use the wisdom you have gained over the years to guide the decisions you make with this young man. Recognize his behaviors for what they are, and respond in a way that will benefit both of you in the long run.
He has had a number of experiences in his short life that could be considered traumatic with long-lasting effects. Living with parents who used drugs or alcohol put him in an unpredictable and inconsistent environment. To a child, that is “unsafe.”
Then, having his mother take her own life could have caused many emotions and distorted thoughts in his mind, such as “she deserted me,” “she didn’t love me enough to stay here and raise me,” or “if I had only behaved a certain way, perhaps she would not have felt like life was so unbearable.” He may even have had the thought that, his parents were more concerned about their drugs than about him, and now he is the one who has to suffer for it. He may feel like now he has to live somewhere that he doesn’t want to be with people he doesn’t want to live with, and he’s MAD!
The point is, he needs counseling to help prevent these distorted thoughts and feelings from disrupting his growth and development into a happy and successful young man. What he said to you about counseling is a threat and attempt at manipulation. If he can avoid counseling, then you will see more threats and manipulation because he was reinforced by getting what he wanted. The message he needs to hear from you is that it is not an option.
When school begins, meet with your grandson’s school counselor and make sure there is a plan in place to help him experience some academic success and catch up on his studies so he can graduate on time with others his same age.
By making the decision to put him into counseling, you will demonstrate that you are making decisions based on what you know is best for both of you in the long run.