Quote of the Week

If you believe in yourself first, you’re unstoppable. ~ Mendell Grinter

2016 Parent of the Year Speech
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, October 14, 2016

Below are Brad and Jenn's comments given at Allegheny County's Juvenile Justice Week awards ceremony:

To quote comedian Jim Gaffigan, “Most of the time I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent.  I call these times being awake.”  Although his statements are meant as a joke, it certainly was not a joke to my husband & me when we found ourselves totally unprepared to be the parents of a defiant, substance abusing child.  And so, 7 years ago, we began our journey into the unknown.

From our perspective, our son’s teenage years were chaotic and challenging, with numerous out-of-home placements, ¾ houses, and rehab facilities.  We know that all of us are works-in-progress, but clearly some of us just take more work than others.  For our son, there have been many successes and many failures along the way.  As one of Dylan's counselors always told him, Dylan just seems to need to learn everything the hard way. 

I’d like to focus on the more recent successes: Dylan graduated from high school, has been clean for the past 6 months (and nearly 9 months before that), recently earned his driver’s license at age 20, and has aspirations of becoming a D&A counselor.  In addition, our previously dysfunctional relationship with him has become much healthier. 

Is our son “cured”?  We don’t know.  One of the many valuable lessons we learned over the years is that we cannot control our son’s actions; the only behavior we can change is our own.  What we do know is that Dylan is on a better path, and just for today, we can accept that and feel good about it.  Our motto, one day at a time.

We have worked with a dream-team of truly amazing people along the way, who have helped give us the strength and guidance to move forward in our journey with Dylan.    

·       Judge Hens-Greco was fair, firm, and encouraging in all of her interactions with our son.

·       Val Ketter’s Juvenile Probation staff, including Lloyd Woodward & Justin Innocent, gave us meaningful support and guidance on a regular basis – even when we didn’t know we needed it.

·       Alleg Co Juvenile Probation also sponsors a truly innovative support group for parents called Parent Survival Skills Training, which became our lifeline over the years.  The Probation staff who guided the group, along with all the other parents who attended the meetings, gave us invaluable, non-judgmental advice.  That group helped us to keep our sanity.  They also challenged us to become better parents.

·       There have been so many other dedicated individuals along the way who helped our family, many therapists and counselors – like Kathie Tagmyer! – from various agencies, ¾ houses, & drug rehab facilities.  Some of these counselors are even addicts in recovery themselves.

We have learned so much from these individuals, and have been blessed by their involvement in our lives.  We are grateful for each and every one of them. 

We accept this award on behalf of all the parents who love their troubled kids, who don’t give up on them, who make their own share of mistakes but bounce back, who refuse to enable their children when they are making poor choices, and who provide loving help and encouragement when they are making good choices.

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When a parent gives the teenager the Silent Treatment.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, October 08, 2016

[This is a reprint of a 2009 post.  One of our readers recently asked a question about this topic, and the response is included in the comments at the end of the post.]

When you ask parents why they give the silent treatment they usually do not admit that they want to cause pain in order to control the teenager's behavior. Instead, they report things like:

"I just needed some time alone to think."
"I thought we both needed a cooling off period."
"I felt hurt by what you did and I just needed to stop communicating."
"I thought you needed some space."
"I didn't want to fight."
"I didn't want to say things that I might regret."

OK, some of these sound good but when you realize that the parent went three days without talking or even acknowledging the teenager's presence, then you can see that this goes way past a cooling off period. A cooling off period is often a good idea but it's going to last an hour not a day. Or at the worst it's going to last the night but not the week.

The bottom line is that the silent treatment is very painful and anytime we heap pain on our loved ones that is disproportionate to the behavior that we are trying to address it causes extreme resentment. Actually, to a parent using this technique it may appear as though it works because the child or teenager may try to do something, anything to try to reopen channels of communication; however, sooner or later this is going to backfire.

In fact, some teens report that they eventually come to like the silent treatment because they become so used to the pain that they just don't care anymore. Once your teenager doesn't care anymore you are in for a whole lot of trouble.

Also, it may be that teenagers who become verbally and physically abusive to their parents are reacting to years of getting the silent treatment. Anecdotal evidence seems to point to the fact that many teens with substance abuse issues have been on the receiving end of the silent treatment. The natural thing that can happen to parents who have regularly treated their children to the silent treatment is that the teenager can start dishing the silent treatment back at the parents. Now we've got a sticky wicket. You could call that bad karma. It is said that children will often fail to do what parents tell them to do, but they will never fail to imitate them. (I don't know who first said that or else I would credit them.)

The silent treatment is a power move. It can work on spouses as well as children but it will backfire on both eventually. Imagine the parent who uses the silent treament regularly and who precieves that it is a ligitimate way to control children. Then, it seems like overnight the parent has a teenager with issues. At that point a frustrated parent may state, "I just wish my teen had more self-confidence." Hello! Everytime this same parent gave the silent treatment the teenager went through feelings of extreme worthlessness. The child or teenager is racked by self doubt. What was it that they did that caused their parent to treat them as though they were dead? In fact, the silent treatment is sort of like a psychological death. The parent might as well have said, "You are dead to me!"

At Parent Survival Skills meetings we are all about parents asserting power; however, we only recomend that the parent use the amount of power necessary to get the behavior of the child back on track and we never approve of phyiscal or psychological abuse. It is never appropriate and it causes extreme resentment that will always cause the resentful chickens to come home to roost. Like yelling, it is counterproductive and seems to produce some of the same problems, e.g. it helps the child or teen to become an angry person who has low self esteem. An angry person with low self esteem is going to be much harder to deal with than someone who is not angry all the time and who feels good about themselves.

Most parents who use this technique learned it from their parents. They also use it on their spouses. Read what some others have said about the silent treatment:

The Silent Treatment - What You Are Saying By Not Saying Anything At All

Parents Are Using the Silent Treatment to Discipline Their Children

The Silent Treatment - A Form of Abuse
- Patricia Jones, M.A.

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Congratulations to Brad and Jenn the Allegheny County Parents of the Year 2016!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Due to their hard work and commitment to helping their son Brad and Jenn have been named 2016 Parent's of the Year! Both parents have demonstrated a strong commitment to PSST and have volunteered for many PSST speaking engagements. They have both studied and demonstrated mastery of the PSST parenting skills and have also helped share that knowledge with other parents. Also, Jenn has tirelessly worked as editor of this blog.

Please join us as Brad and Jenn are recognized at Awards Night at Juvenile Court on Thursday, October 6th at 6:00 PM!!!

Valerie Ketter, Supervisor Drug and Alcohol Unit Juvenile Court. Type rest of the post here

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Go For the Gold!
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 28, 2016

“I still remember the days locked up in my room, not wanting to talk to anyone, not wanting to see anyone, really not wanting to live, and I was on a downward spiral; on the express elevator to the bottom floor, wherever that might be.”
Does this sound like your child?  Your friend?  Your spouse?

This was a statement made by Michael Phelps about his mental attitude just a couple years ago.  Yes, that same Michael Phelps who is currently the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, with his 28 medals (23 of them gold).  At the time, it appeared that he was on a path to self-destruction that could ruin his reputation, Olympic ambitions, and financial future – everything that he had worked so hard for.
In that same interview, Michael also made the following comment about the time he spent in rehab:  “It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about myself.”
Perhaps Michael Phelps’ story of self-loathing accompanied by alcohol and drug abuse, followed by his beneficial involvement in rehab, can be an inspiration to others who are feeling the same pain and hopelessness. There are resources available that can help them find that same commitment to change, if they are receptive.
For an article on Michael’s turnaround, titled Michael Phelps: The Importance of His Recovery and Return to the Olympics, click on this link. 

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No Meeting Sept 3, 2016
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 31, 2016

(Our normal location will be unavailable that day.)


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International Overdose Awareness Day
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day.  According to the official websiteInternational Overdose Awareness Day is held annually to:
  • raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death.
  • acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
  • spread the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.
The website also provides information on overdose symptoms, an overdose-awareness app, and a place to post tributes to those who have died.

Dr. William R. Morrone, a board certified pain physician, tells us that Nearly 80 people will die today from a preventable, opioid-related overdose.  That’s more than 28,000 Americans who die annually from our opioid abuse epidemic.”  In his article titled Overcoming Overdose: Raising Awareness through Action, Dr. Morrone shares his goals of slowing the prescribing and proliferation of non-medical opioid drugs, as well as spreading awareness and access to naloxone, the medication that can save the life of someone overdosing on opioids. 

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Who is the Big Dog in your car? Featured Technique: use the brake pedal. Big Dog Part II
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, August 20, 2016

(This article was originally posted 3/29/2010.  It's just as appropriate today!)

I don't know why what happens inside cars are so important. I just know that what happens inside PSST cars is very important.

The car is an intimate place. We are all crowded together. And we don't usually just get mad and walk away, although that can happen. Usually we are committed to remain together until we reach our destination.

Unless we own guns, the car is the most powerful thing we own or operate. It is a deadly piece of equipment. The car is the most dangerous place to which any of us go. Therefore, the dog who takes control of the car-situation is, in fact, the dog that is in control.

It doesn't just mean the dog who is driving, but it does mean the dog who is "driving things." That dog is in control of not only the car but also he is the leader of the pack. Otherwise, why would he be the one in control when we are at our most dangerous and in someways intimate place? Instinctively, teenagers know this.

Think of a pack of dogs. Suddenly they are in danger. They are attacked by enemies. Who takes charge of things when the pack is in danger? Exactly.

Now think of your family. Who gets mad and starts arguments in the car? Who controls the car radio? Who controls where he sits or where other people sit? Be honest. Far too many times we adults abrogate that "dog-in-charge" role to our teenagers. They call "shotgun." They choose that to which everyone will listen. They choose the car-time to pick arguments, almost as if they know how vulnerable the adults are since they will sometimes do anything to NOT argue in the car.

For example, how dare you try to control your own radio? Who do you think you are? Don't you know that music is important to your teenager? Don't you know that only he, not any other other family members, understand music? Don't you know that your teen just HAS to hear that song again. I mean they really care about it don't they? You on the other hand can hear your NPR or old-people music anytime you are in your car! You don't have to listen to it now, not when they need to hear that one song!

Part of what is going on is that we are all crowded into a small place. If you crowd dogs into a small place there is a good chance that the pack hierarchy will be evident real fast.

Here's the thing to consider. Whoever is the Top Dog when they get out of that car - that dog is going to act like they are the Top Dog everywhere else too. This is a good and a bad thing. It is a bad thing because our teenagers are more aggressive when it comes to calling Shot Gun, controlling the radio, and starting arguments.

However, it is a good thing because once we understand how important it is, we can control our own car! Especially, we can control our own car if we are driving. How? Easy! We have a secret weapon in the car, one that we probably very rarely use. It's call the Brake Pedal and it's on the floor right next to the accelerator!

We can use our secret weapon anytime to demonstrate that we are indeed in charge of our own car. We can stop arguments just by stopping the car (pull over first of course) and calmly stating that "we won't be going anywhere until things are quiet in here." Just let them know that it needs to be quieter in order for you to operate the car safely.

The first or second time you do this it might take five or ten minutes for things to settle down and for the other family members to "get it" that you are in charge of your own car. Once they "get it" they will settle down real fast. If there is one thing teens hate, it's just sitting still in a parked car along the road. They hate it ten times more than you hate it.

Of course, there is going to be some sulking once things quiet down. Sulking is important. It's actually a submissive posture and so TRANSLATED the sulking means: "Oh, so you're in charge now? Great. That sucks." It means you've won for the moment. You've established that you are in charge; all too soon the sulking will pass. Allow yourself to enjoy the small victory, don't allow yourself to be consumed by guilt that you had to exert a little leadership and pressure on the teens. It will pass soon and you will remain the Top Dog of your car if you consistently apply your secret weapon.

By the way, it really is not safe to argue in the car anyway.

As to the radio, you may not need your secret weapon for this. Just turn it off. Say something like:

Mom: No, not right now. [Turning off the radio.]

Daughter: I HAVE to hear that one song! [Turning radio back on.]

Mom: No, not right now. [Turning off the radio.]

Daughter: MOM! I have to hear that!

TRANSLATED: "I am in charge here, not you!"

Mom: No, not right now. [Turning off the radio.]

TRANSLATED: "You just think you are in charge- but you are mistaken- I am in charge."

Once you start this battle you must win. You must win it everytime. Otherwise don't even start the argument because if you start to do battle and then you give in- you have just agreed that they are the Top Dog. Better to act like you don't care about it if you are not prepared to win.

If necessary, and usually for the radio it will not be necessary, you have your secret weapon that we already discussed. Just pull over and state that the car won't go until the radio is off and it better stay off!

Be the Top Dog in your car and you will find that your pack still thinks of you as the Top Dog when you are not in your car. Afterall, if you can control the MOST DANGEROUS situation, you can control the other situations. If you can't then you'll be treated as though you are not the Top Dog. You might even be seen as the puppy-dog driver.

Continuing: Next Part III on how to be the Top Dog.

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More about Boundaries - or - Mom, Can I Borrow Your Car?
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, July 18, 2016

Lloyd originally created this post on March 14, 2012.  The topic of how to deal with your teen using your car while s/he is not behaving responsibly (using drugs, for example) is one that resurfaces regularly in our parents' group meetings.  This article provides some excellent insights on how to address that problem.   Jenn 

We have talked at PSST many times about the "Agree with One or Two Things First" technique.  This is the technique where you look for things to agree on when you are discussing a contentious topic with your teenager, instead of automatically looking for the reasons why your teen’s reasons, expectations or demands are irrational (or even downright ridiculous).  Finding a way to agree with our teenagers can help to defuse a potentially explosive situation, reinforce our boundaries, and model adult behavior, while taking steps to build greater intimacy with our teens.

A PSST mother once offered me the best reason why more parents don’t adopt this technique more readily.  "I want to be genuine. This doesn't feel genuine."

That's right. This approach will not feel genuine. In fact, let's face it – it feels phony. I don't have a good response for that one.

Any approach that is new will feel phony. The only thing that is going to feel genuine is the same old approach (and I might add, the same old approach that has NOT been working). Add to that the fact that the "Agree with One or Two Things First" technique purposely leaves some things out of the conversation until later, which of course adds to the feeling of being phony.

Keep these 3 things in mind: 

1. Keep to your boundaries. Don't mislead, don't over-agree. Just agree with a "slice" of what your teenager is saying and don't offer too much agreement if it would take you outside of your comfort zone.

For example, if he is excited about getting his license at age 18, and is pressuring you about letting him drive your car, agree that being 18 is a BIG deal. Agree that driving is really fun.  Agree that having a license and not having a car to drive would be really frustrating. Agree – if you believe it – that he will eventually become a good driver

If you're not sure about that last one, then don't offer it. Be careful however not to agree that he needs to have access to a car as part of growing up, because unless you agree with that, it's not only phony but it's misleading and deceitful.

2. When you are pressured to give an answer – give one. That is the perfect time to not pull any punches. If you stick to your boundaries, what could be more genuine?

Teen: So, you're saying that as soon as I get my license, you’ll let me drive your car?

Mom: Well, I'm not comfortable saying that.

Teen: Well that's what you and Dad have been promising me for months!

Mom: We have?

Teen: Yeah, you said that I could get my license, and then I could drive your car.

Mom: You are right, we did agree with you that once you turned 18, you could get your driver’s license on your own.  We knew that you wouldn’t even need any help from us to do that.

Teen: So, that means you'll let me drive your car, right?  After all, what good is a license if I can’t even drive?

Mom: Yes, I see you're point and it's a good one – if I agreed with you that you could get your license when you turned 18, then why wouldn't I want to let you drive my car?

Teen: Yeah, exactly!

Mom: I'm sorry. I think I misled you. But I'm really happy that you are bringing this up so we can talk about it. I think it's important for me to be clear with you about this.

Teen: OK? So? What? Tell me already!

Mom: I have a little problem with this part.

Teen: What?

Mom: You're not going to like my answer because it's not the answer that you are looking for, and we know that it's a big challenge for you to hear an answer that you don't like. A huge challenge especially because this driving thing is going to be so important for you.

Teen: I knew it. You were just lying! You were never planning to let me drive your car at all. There's no sense in us talking about this anymore.

Mom: Yeah, this is going to be a tough one for you. Let's talk about it later - good idea.

Teen: I already know what you're going to say anyway.

Mom: Yes, I've noticed that.

Teen: Noticed what?

Mom: You're very good at predicting what your dad and I are going to say about things. You know us really well and even when we don't want to come right out and say something, maybe because we fear that it will upset you- you still do an excellent job of "reading" us.

Teen: See, I knew you wouldn't let me drive your car.

Mom: You're right.  And you probably know exactly why we feel that way too.  I bet none of our reasons would surprise you.

In summary, try to think of the "not genuine" issue as being more an issue of timing. You're just giving him the same information while you continue to agree with a lot of the stuff that he is saying- but your boundary is that you are Not Comfortable with him driving your car just because he got his license, and that does not change.

3. Buy some time for yourself. You don't have to know exactly what to say as soon as your teen pressures you.

Teen: So, I can drive your car as soon as I get my license, right?

Mom: Wow! Good question. I'm not sure what to say about that one.

Teen: What does that mean?

Mom: Well, you just surprised with that question, that's all.

Teen: Why? I’ve been telling you for months, that as soon as I turned 18, I was going to get my driver’s license.  So of course I need a car to drive!

Mom: I wasn't even thinking of it that way – I mean with you disappearing from our house for days at a time, being truant from school on a regular basis, and not testing clean on your drug tests, I just didn't even think that was something you’d be expecting.

Teen: Well, that’s ridiculous!  Why would I even get a license if I can’t drive your car?

Mom: Yeah, well that’s a good question.

Teen (changing tactics): I think it would be good for me to have a car to drive.

Mom: How's that?

Teen: Well, if I have something to look forward to, like driving your car, I could probably be more responsible and, you know, I could stay off drugs better if thought you'd take the car off me anytime I tested dirty.

Mom: Oh, so what you're saying is that if you had a car to drive, that would be the answer to a lot of the troubles we've been having?

Teen: Exactly. So can I?

Mom: Oh I really don't know about all that, but what you say is interesting and I have to tell you son, I have never looked at it that way before.

Teen: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, I've only thought of you driving my car as another problem-area; I've never ever thought of you having a car as a solution to a problem.

Teen: You can count on me!  I’ll go to school every day.  I’ll stick around on weekends.  And I will definitely stop using drugs.

Mom: I’m so glad you understand the behavior that we expect from you.

Teen: So, I can do it then, right?

Mom: You want an answer right now on that?

Teen: Yeah.

Mom: Just like that?

Teen: Just like that. I'm tired of having to wait all the time for answers.

Mom: It's true. It's seems like most of the time all the adults in your life are saying, "I'll get back to you on that one." That's got to be frustrating.

Teen: It is. So, just tell me already, before I get really mad.

Mom: OK, well [moving in closer and lowering her voice.] As much as I like your courage for even suggesting that driving my car could be an answer to our problems, I'd have to say it would be a cold day in hell before I let you drive my car anytime soon. Ok? That straight up enough for you?

Teen: Why not? Give me one good reason!

Mom: Ok. But you are so good at reading us you probably know what I'm going to say.

Teen: You're going to say I have to prove that I'm responsible first before you trust me with all that responsibility of driving your car.

Mom: Wow!

Teen: Wow what?

Mom: You just said it better than I could. Nice going. You just surprised me again!

Teen: I'm not stupid.

Mom: I completely agree, Son.  You are not stupid.  You know exactly what we expect from you.

Teen (storming off): There’s no use even talking to you!

Note: All this started because Mom said, "I'm not sure what to say." It's OK to not know what to say all the time and while we parents feel that way a lot, we rarely say it to our teenagers. Now, ask yourself, what could be more genuine? Also, it's a paradoxical thing that as soon as you say, "I'm not sure what to say about that" a response starts forming in your brain and soon you have lots to say about that!

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Make Your Voice Heard
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, June 16, 2016

In March 2016, as part of wider Administration efforts to expand access to treatment for people with mental health and substance use disorders, President Obama authorized creation of the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force. The Task Force will focus key Federal agencies on the work of ensuring that Americans receive the coverage and treatment that they need.  More information on the task force can be found here.   

The Task Force wants to hear from patients, families, consumer advocates, health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders on their experiences and/or difficulties with accessing mental health and substance use services and coverage.  Share your comments, experiences, and recommendations with the Task Force. Or, submit your comments by sending an email to parity@hhs.gov.  The Task Force will present its findings and recommendations in a report to the President by October 31, 2016.

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Risks of Early Drug Use
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, May 28, 2016

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) reports the following:
  • People who began using addictive substances before age 15 are nearly 7 times likelier to develop a substance problem than those who delay first use until age 21 or older
  • Every year that substance use is delayed during the period of adolescent brain development, the risk of addiction and substance abuse decreases
Can making a pact with your child encourage him/her to stay off drugs?  Jim Huger, founder of Parents and Children Together (PACT), believes that it can.  Click here to read about his proactive rewards-based approach to keeping children off drugs.

This post is not intended to be a recommendation for subscribing to the service that Jim Huger created, since at this time I am not personally aware of anyone using it.  Instead, it presents a concept that could be of interest to many parents of pre-teens and teens. 

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May 21st PSST meeting CANCELLED
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, May 16, 2016

Due to scheduling conflicts, there will NOT be a PSST meeting on Saturday, May 21st in Greentree.

Please consider joining us for our next meeting on Saturday, June 4 in Wilkinsburg!

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Thanks for the Memories!
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, April 21, 2016

                    The cake says it all . . .  

Thanks for your support, wisdom and guidance over the years! 

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Good Luck, Abby!
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Come join us at the next PSST meeting, to wish Abby success in whatever her future brings her - she is moving to Colorado!!

Our meeting will be on Saturday, April 16, at the usual location for that date (Sts Simon and Jude Church on Greentree Road).

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Are You Making any of these Mistakes?
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Click here to read an article by Cathy Taughinbaugh about the common mistakes that parents make when they realize their child is using drugs.  This is not a list meant to “shame” parents!  They are called “common” mistakes because they are the kind of things that parents instinctively do, often with the best of intentions, but sometimes unknowingly.  So let’s start by identifying those actions/thoughts.  By perusing this list, parents (and other loved ones) may realize that they need to start (or stop) doing certain things, because those actions may be hurting themselves, as well as their relationship with their child.

Here are a few examples from the list:
  • Feeling that your child’s drug use is a teen rite of passage that they will grow out of.
  • Continuing to worry constantly about things you can’t control and making yourself miserable.
  • Feeling guilty for something you didn’t cause.
  • Never praising or rewarding for what your child does right, because after all, he is using drugs.
  • Not allowing your child to take responsibility for the consequences of their use.
  • Waiting too long to get outside help, because you think you can handle it.

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