|How to Search a Teen's Room|
A bakers-dozen to keep in mind before taking your teenager on a home pass from an inpatient drug treatment program.
1. Friends: Home passes are not to spend with friends. They are for family. Make that clear before you start the home pass. If your teenager has a problem with that then don't take him on the home pass. Some institutions make this clear to parents and some do not. This is a chance to flex some parent-muscle and demonstrate that things are going to be different from now on. If your teenager won’t commit to making this a family-only pass then postpone it until he is ready to make that commitment. This is a powerful way to send him the message that he is not in charge anymore.
2. Home passes are triggers for teens. Supervise your teenager every minute or as close to that as you can: Consider that some teenagers are going to get high on home passes and some will even smuggle drugs back into the placement. One girl that I used to work with went was on a home pass from Abraxas. She went out to get the mail. Unknown to her parents, she had already arranged with a friend to have some Heroin dropped off in the mail box. She went back to Abraxas high, smuggled heroin into Abraxas and got busted. The Mom was shocked. "I was with her every minute." Going out to the mail box has happened on other cases as well. Ask yourself this, “My teenager never used to want to go out to get the mail- wonder why he wants to do it this time?” Don't underestimate your teen. A home pass is a big relapse trigger.
Some institutions drug test after home passes and some only do it if it is requested by the PO or by the parent. Request one.
3. Check your teenager’s bedroom and other areas of the home with a fine tooth comb before you bring him back home: Often this is when parents find drugs and money. Not only drugs but money should be confiscated because it was probably drug dealing money. Sometimes they hide things in the basement too. If you can arrange with your local police to do bring a drug dog into your house that is a huge help. You might be surprised even if the dog doesn’t find anything he might “pause” at certain regular hiding places. Now you know where your teenager used to hide drugs.
Especially, if your pass is rather short and your teenager insists that you bring him back home even if for only a brief time, perhaps because he is home sick, be suspicious. Be very suspicious.
4. Take him to a 12-step meeting: Choose a meeting labeled "Open." This means that non-addicts (probably that describes you) are also allowed in the meeting. Go into the meeting with him but if he chooses a discussion group then let him enter that himself. Be there when he comes out of the discussion group. Ask him what he liked about the meeting. Try to get him to chat about his experience. See what your teens reaction is towards the meeting in general because this is a good way to get a read on how serious your teen is about his recovery.
5. Don't allow your teen to be in charge of the home pass and this starts with written expectations: Show your teenager that you are not afraid to assume some leadership. You don't have to go the mall and walk around aimlessly. That is where he will run into peers. Anytime you suspect that your teenager wants to go to a certain place because he will run into peers, don't agree to go.
In fact you don't have to listen to loud music in the car unless you really like that kind of thing. Who is really in charge? If your teenager insists that you do what he wants because he has been cooped up in a rehab and it's only fair tell him he doesn't have to come on the home pass. Once again, it's time to show who is in charge. If you allow your teenager to be the one in charge on the home pass he has every reason to think that once he is released back home he will be in charge then too.
Write down all the rules of the home pass and review them with your teenager and his counselor before you begin the home pass. If your teenager balks at your rules then postpone the home pass. The very act of postponing the pass will send a strong message to your teenager that he is not in charge of you anymore.
6. Decide whether or not you are going to let your teenager smoke cigarettes on the home pass and stick to your decision. This is a values thing. For example, your teenager is not allowed to smoke cigarettes in the institution where he is placed (unless he is in an adult rehab or over 18 and placed in a halfway house); therefore, don't allow him to smoke when he is off grounds because he is still a resident of that institution and he should continue to follow the rules. This is often a big point of contention. It is another place that parents can flex some parent-muscle.
Exceptions to this smoking rule might be if one of his family smoke and plan to smoke in front of him. That might be cruel. Also, if he is 18 or over, the placement might not care if he smokes on his home pass. Check with his counselor and see how the institution views this before you decide.
If it has been bothering you that your teenager smokes cigarettes, especially if he is not old enough to purchase them himself, then this is not the time to go soft and buy him a pack. Send him a message that says, "I don't approve and I will not enable you to smoke. Don't smoke on the home pass and if that is going to be a too difficult rule for you to follow, then don't take the home pass- just stay here in the placement where you can follow the rules."
7. Don't try to make every moment a teachable moment: Your teen gets plenty of that in the placement. Give him a break. Relax. Try to have a little fun. It's OK if you do something that he likes to do, like a movie or eating out at his favorite place. This might sound like a contradiction to #5, the "don't let your teen be in charge" but it's not. You are in charge and you should certainly plan to do some things that your teenager likes to do but, once again, if it looks like he is trying to use that to hook up with old friends or if they think they can torture you with some sort of music in the car that you hate- that's a different story!
8. Consider the music your teenager is listening to on the home pass- does it have a negative message? Then don't permit it. Confiscate it. At an outpatient drug treatment program teenagers formed small groups and were asked to come up with relapse triggers. While they all came up with somewhat different lists, one item that was on every list was music. Music generates powerful memories and emotions, which can lead to relapse. If the message of the music is pro-drug abuse then it is the last thing to which your teenager in recovery needs to be exposed. It’s also another chance for a parent to send a powerful message about who is in charge and by so doing flex some parent-muscle.
9. Don't be afraid to make your teenager angry. This is the time to take the bull by the horns. If your teen can't handle a bit of supervision, and he flips out, then you carry that information back to the counselor. Now you've generated some therapeutic grist for the therapy mill. In other words, now the therapist has something important to discuss with your teenager. Likewise, if your teen decides not to go on the home pass, then the therapist can raise his eyebrows and pay attention to the fact that your teen doesn't even want to go off grounds unless he can call the shots. Oops, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready for release, does it?
Some teenagers assume that they can treat their parents disrespectfully on a home pass. Stop that behavior if you can and report that information back to his counselor following the home pass. For example, sometimes it happens in the car right after the parent picks up the teenager. It might involve yelling, screaming, name-calling, or using an inappropriate tone of voice. Stop the vehicle. Don’t start again until there is an understanding that you are NOT comfortable driving the car with that kind of behavior going on. Consider returning your teenager back the institution early if you cannot trust that they will conduct themselves appropriately.
10. Don't keep secrets. If your teenager asks you not to tell his therapist that he has done something, e.g., smoked, saw a friend, has a fight with you, ran off without supervision, failed to attend a 12-step meeting, or just about anything else that he thought it important enough to ask you not to report on- DON'T do it. Secrets keep us sick and, once again, if you keep secrets on home passes, he has every right to expect you to keep secrets once he is released back home. This is where he will try to guilt you. "Awe you're going to ruin everything! Just when I worked so hard! You don't want me to come home at all, do you?” Teenagers put a guilt trip on parents in order to get their own way. Maybe that worked before he went away to placement. Now it’s time to show him that doesn't work anymore.
Sometimes it seems like keeping a secret will help you and your teenager to become closer. Perhaps. However, it is comes with a price to high to pay, e.g., you won’t be the one in charge anymore. Instead you’ll be a co-conspirator. Ask yourself if your teen needs a co-conspirator or a parent willing to be the unpopular adult in charge? Harry Truman is quoted as saying, “The buck stops here!” The secrets should stop here too because they only hurt your teenager and your relationship with him in the long run.
11. Teenagers sometimes engage in sex. Make sure it isn't happening on your watch. I once had a girl return to placement after a home pass and she told the staff that thought she was pregnant. She wasn't (phew) but it brought the whole matter up of what she was doing on her home pass. Her mother said that she knew her boyfriend didn't use drugs and she thought it would be nice to give the couple some alone time. Not! Her pass was deemed unsuccessful and her mother, who had assured everyone that she supervised her daughter 100 percent of the time, was embarrassed.
12. Put your big ears on. While you don't want to allow your teenager to be "in charge" of the home pass, neither do you want to be in charge of what he is saying or what he is feeling. Try listening closely and rephrasing what it is that you are hearing so that your teenager can hear what he is saying. This is a chance for you to get a good look into what your teenager is thinking and that kind of intel is invaluable for the entire team that is working with your teenager. If you come off the home pass with new information then that home pass was probably worthwhile.
Be in charge of the comings, goings, tasks, and activities performed on the home pass. Don’t try to be in charge of everything your teenager says or thinks. That will backfire.
A good phrase to remember is this: "Tell me about that." Follow that up by actually listening. Caution: The more you listen the more you may wish to debate. Don't debate with your teenager. Let your teen know before you start the home pass that you are not interested in debating. Listening is not debating. Following the rules is not debating. You can stick to the rules, listen to your teenager and then follow that up with "I'm glad you told me your side of that. Yes, you make a good argument but you know you have always been able to make a good argument. This home pass is chance to show us that you can follow the rules, so we are going to stick to the contract that we have prepared and that we all have agreed."
13. Give some positive feedback to your teenager if you find that he is acting more grownup. Sometimes the behavior on a home pass is so nice that you wonder who this teenager is and what have they done with your real teenager! That’s great. Mention it. Tell your teenager that you see big changes in him. Label his behavior “adult.” Tell them that you respect all the hard work that he has done in placement and really like the changes he has made.
Summary: Teenagers use guilt, intimidation and lying to vie for power. If you want be the one in charge of your teenager don’t wait until he or she is released from the institution. Start being in charge on off grounds passes and home passes. Let your teen find out that you are not as easily manipulated anymore. Let him know that the buck stops here.
Other home pass posts:
Home for the Holidays by Rocco and Sally
Scoring the Home Pass by Lloyd
Rocco's comment below suggested Where's Wendell's/ Wendy's stuff post.
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