The Teenage Years

Dear Dr. Darcy:

My son has been acting strange lately.  He’s 15 years old and he’s a pretty good student, but lately he’s had a lot of problems with his friends.  He had the same best friend for 10 years and [my son] abruptly stopped speaking to him this month, only to replace him with a boy who is known for drug use in town.  Making matters more concerning, he’s been buying things that I have no idea how he’s paying for.  My daughter says he walks around with wads of cash at school, but all he has is a part-time job assisting an elderly neighbor after school 2 hours a day.  There’s nothing terribly wrong, but I have a feeling of foreboding.  Am I just being paranoid?

ANSWER

No, you are not being paranoid.  Your son’s in trouble, and we both know that he’s probably dealing drugs.  But before we go there, I want to discuss his part-time job.

If your elderly neighbor’s medicine cabinet looks anything like my mother’s, it’s a drug user’s dream, A) because my mother never throws out medication – just in case, and B) because at her age (which I’m forbidden to disclose), something always hurts and doctors write her prescriptions with complete abandon.  Luckily she doesn’t have teenage kids coming around her home and addiction doesn’t run in my family.  See where I’m going with this?

What you want to do is limit his exposure to potential negativity.  You can’t control who your son hangs out with.  If you try to, you’ll make the new best friend even more appealing.  Trust me, this is not a battle you want to engage in.  You can, however, inform your 15 year old son that at his age, he needs to work more than 2 hours daily, which would accomplish 2 important things:  1) He’d no longer have access to the neighbor’s medicine cabinet which I suspect has been the source of his drug supply, and 2) It will give him more structure in his life / less time to get into trouble.

Finally, schedule a time to take your son out to dinner.  At dinner, let him know your concerns, framing them as concerns/feelings and not as accusations.  As tempting as it will be to point fingers, keep the new best friend out of the conversation.  The goal of this conversation (which will be apparent and which does not need to be directly expressed) is to clue your son in on the fact that you’re not a mother who walks the planet in a self-absorbed coma, rather, one who takes her parenting responsibilities seriously and who sees problems before they turn into a crisis.   Then let it go.  Enjoy dinner, end on an up note and be sure to tell him that you’re always available to speak to him.

Well done, by the way.  This is among the few parent questions that hasn’t ended with me eviscerating said parent.

Writer's Stats: Female, Heterosexual.