Is it just a bad day at school or a fight with a friend, or is there something else going on? Is your child using his computer to complete his homework and a drug transaction? How can you tell?
When you notice behavioral changes in your child, you want to be able to identify if these changes are due to adolescent stress and typical 'growing up'--or due to something darker, like drug abuse. Learn what types of behaviors that parents can monitor in the quest to keep your family drug free:
Use Your Senses
When you're trying to figure out what your teen has been up to, it makes sense to make use of all of your senses.
Sight: Take a look at your teen—do you notice that his eyes and cheeks are red and that he's having trouble focusing on you? He may have been drinking alcohol. Are his eyes red and his pupils constricted? That can be a sign of marijuana use. Does he have a strange burn on his mouth or fingers? That can signify smoking something through a metal or glass pipe. Is he wearing long sleeves in the middle of the summer? He may be trying to hide puncture marks that would indicate intravenous drug use. Has he begun developing nosebleeds? That can be one of the first signs of cocaine abuse.
Review Drug Information
Smell: Marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol/beer all have very telltale smells. And whether you notice them on your teen's breath or on her clothing, they are reason for alarm—simply being around other teens who may be drinking or smoking makes it more likely that your teen will, too. Follow your nose—and don't forget that excessive 'good' smells, like breath fresheners, heavy perfumes and freshly laundered clothing (for a teen who's never run the washing machine in her life) can be as telling as the smells they're trying to mask. And make sure too that you take a whiff of your teen's car—the smell of stale beer or marijuana smoke may linger in the car's upholstery.
Learn More About What You Should Say
Sound: Listen for the clues that your teen is giving you by the things that he's saying, the things that he's laughing at, or the fact that he isn't saying anything at all. Silence can speak volumes about the fact that something's going on in your teen's life. By continuing to listen over time, you'll be able to identify which behaviors are the result of a short-term mood swing and which are indicative of a more serious underlying issue.
Is there a potentially 'rational' explanation for many of the scenarios above? Certainly—your teen may be suffering from a cold, trying to mask eczema on his arms or may just be tired. He may be feeling stressed by a difficult class in school, or may be having issues in his love life. By observing your teen using all of your senses combined with your gut instinct, you'll better be able to determine if a certain behavior is 'typical' or indicative of drug use.
Understand How Digital Monitoring Works
Other signs to look for that may indicate drug use include:
Stories Don't Add Up, and Social Circles Change
When your teen says she's going to the football game but can't tell you which team won, or when she's staying at Jenny's house and Jenny just called your house asking for her, it's time to be concerned. No matter how much she denies there's anything going on, it's up to you to confront her and get to the heart of the issue.
The same thing holds true if you see a sudden change in your child's social circle. If they are no longer associating with childhood friends, seem to be only interested in hanging out with kids who are older or are simply spending time with new friends that give you a bad feeling, you should follow your instincts. And don't accept sullen silence as an answer—make sure the conversation occurs.
School Goes Downhill
Declining grades can be a stark indicator that drug abuse is occurring—especially if your teen typically performs well. If he seems to have lost his motivation, is missing homework, skipping school or foregoing the extracurricular activities that he used to be passionate about, that's a sign that there may be a drug issue.
Lying and Stealing
Your six-pack of beer has suddenly turned into a five-pack. Your after-dinner aperitif tastes suspiciously watered-down. You're missing cash from your wallet, or a gold ring from your jewelry box. When a teen wants to get drunk or high, one of the first places they're going to go looking for 'resources' is right within your house. If you begin to notice missing items, you must immediately confront your teen with your suspicions and let them know that stealing—whether it be $5 from your purse or a $500 necklace—will not be tolerated.
When it comes to identifying the signs of drug abuse, the best rule to follow is this: No one knows their kids better than you. If you think something's going on, take the steps necessary to find out for certain.
Learn What You Can Do;
Learn What Your Child May Experience If They Get Caught Up In Drug Abuse: