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July-9-2005 Meeting Summary
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, July 09, 2005

Four parents representing four families attended our last meeting on July 9. Probably, our attendance has dropped a bit due to summer vacations. However, it gave us a chance to have a more intimate group. As usual, we took a break after going around the group for introductions and updates. Then, we arranged the following three role-plays based on a real life scenarios presented by parents.

A 16-year-old boy on probation in the D&A unit has refused to give up his two closest friends who use drugs and alcohol. He has apparently stopped using marijuana but he has begun to drink alcohol more often. He is concerned about passing his urine screens. His two friends are very old and dear.

A 16-year-old boy whose case was just closed with Probation has been drinking and smoking weed and hanging out with peers who his mother deems to be a bad influence. When he stays overnight at his friend’s homes, he has trouble making it to work the next day. His mother is happy that Juvenile Court closed her son’s case. She admits that she did not fill the PO in on the extent of the problems; now she struggles with having the parental control necessary to keep her son free from further drug and alcohol abuse.

A 16-year-old boy is pending a Petition Hearing in Juvenile Court. He has been outside of parental control recently. He also has several close friends from which he refuses to disassociate. At least one of these friends is known to use drugs. At one point the mother told her son that if he was not home by curfew time that she would lock the doors. After doing this once or twice he has begun to come home by curfew time.

All three of these role-plays were similar in that they all involved close friends that the teenager refused to give up. Lloyd played the parent in all three role-plays and each parent who provided the role-play played their own sons. Each role-play was lively and authentic. In the last role-play the teenager quickly got up and said that he wasn’t talking any more and he stormed out of the room. For this role-play, we attempted it a second time and we were able to structure things so that the teenager did not storm out. More on that below.

Point 1: If your teenagers are going to associate with peers that use drugs, sooner or later he will use drugs too. While it can take a lot of work and backbone for a parent to address this problem, a parent can address this problem. Failure to do so is certain defeat. Therefore, the parent has nothing to loose by addressing this peer group problem.

Point 2: Let us examine why Parents often do not address this peer group problem: There are certain myths, or exaggerations involved in negative peer group problems:

A. “We can’t pick his friends for him.” True. However, parents can pick his not friends for him. In fact, when drugs and alcohol are involved parents must pick their Not Friends because this is a life-and-death situation.

B. “If he doesn’t hang out with those guys, he won’t have any friends at all.” The presumption is that he must have friends or he will suffer in some way. No, he does not have to have friends. He can temporarily go without friends. That is his choice as he can decide to choose other friends.

C. “I can’t be with him all the time, so I can’t stop him from having the friends he wants. He’ll go ahead and see him them anyway.” This one is true. However, we can still make it unacceptable that he chooses friends who use drugs and alcohol. He can sneak around, but eventually the parent will find out and at then should hold him accountable. It will take the fun out of hanging out with them and it shows the teenager that the parent DOES NOT APPROVE of the choice of friends. This disapproval is important even in cases where complete 100 percent enforcement is not possible.

D. “He is going to pick his friends no matter what I say or do.” Probably true in many cases. However, it is simply not always true. Parents usually have much more power if correctly used than they realize. We simply have to care enough about the problem to be prepared to do what is necessary to hold them accountable. This is a problem that is large enough and devastating enough to our teenager that taking a real stand is worth it. There is so much that can be done. Each teen is different and the accountability that parents choose should be appropriate for their particular teenager. Let us look at some of the possibilities.

a. Tell the Probation Officer or Intake Officer that your child is out of control. Tell your child that you hope that you can work this out with them but you are prepared to involve the Probation or Intake Officer.

b. Ground them until you believe that you can trust them not have this association with negative peers.

c. If you know when they are over a negative peer’s house and if you know where they live, go there. Collect your teenager and let his peer’s family know that it is not permissible for your teenager to be at their house. Tell them that your son has a drug problem. If he refuses to come home, take him home anyway- call the police if necessary.

d. Take all privileges away until your teen is ready to follow these new rules. TV, radio, phone, computer, allowance, and everything else that you can think of that might motivate him. Shopping can be put on hold. Even buying snacks that your teenager likes can halted until you feel that you are getting control of the situation. You can even take the door off the bedroom, remove bedroom furniture and remove other things that they like until you think you are getting the cooperation that you need. If your child has a Probation Officer or Intake Officer, insist that they become involved with this problem. Remember, if your teen continues to hang out with old friends that use drugs, he will too.

E. Warn your teenager first that “there is a new sheriff in town;” you want them to have this new information so that they can choose their path wisely. It is hard to argue with someone who lets you know as FYI that things are changing. “I wanted you to know this because it’s only fair that I warn you that things are changing around here.”

F. Only make this rule regarding unacceptable peers if you are willing to enforce it. You at least have to enforce it when it comes to your attention that your teen is still associating with old peers. If you are not willing to enforce this rule in a CONSISTANT manor, then do not make it a rule because you are wasting your time. We enforce this rule 100 % of the time (that it comes to our attention.)

G. When you teenagers who are likely to walk out of the meeting angry keep this in mind:

a. Let them know before you start that you think they might get angry and walk out. This becomes a “paradoxical task,” and we all are a bit to oppositional defiant to allow people to predict what we will do. We want them to be wrong.

b. Let them also know that if they walk out such and such will happen anyway, e.g., you will schedule the next “talk” with Probation Officer Smith or Intake Officer Jones.

Remember, when it comes to peers who abuse alcohol and drugs, you have nothing to loose by making it a big battle. If you do not, you have lost the war anyway.

Special thanks to all three parents for providing and participating in these role-plays. For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on July 23.

If you have any questions, please call 412-580-4051 or 412-247-6359 for more information.


Lloyd Woodward, Probation Officer
Drug and Alcohol Unit

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