When the Texas mother of 16-year-old Ashley Banks found a baggie of colorful capsules in her daughter’s possessions, her response was typical of how most concerned parents would react.
She texted her daughter: “Ashley Carol I will not have drugs in my house. Come home right now. You’re grounded.”
Ashley’s response was not that of a child caught using drugs, however. She texted back: “Ahahaha. Mom they aren’t drugs lol. Go put them in water.”
Though confused, Ashley’s mother did in fact drop the capsules in water, and the capsules immediately burst open into little brightly colored dinosaur sponges.
Ashley posted the hilarious text exchange on Twitter, where it went viral and was retweeted more than 30,000 times.
Ashley’s mother was right on track when it came to being aware of what was going on with her daughter. It is something that all parents can and should do in order to make sure that their children are safe and making safe choices. Though some parents recoil at the idea of what they call “spying,” it is in fact simply parenting. How can you help your child deal with academic difficulties, relationship problems, issues with friends, bullying at school, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol use, and/or fear of the future if you don’t know that your child is facing these problems? Teens may not be forthcoming about what they are dealing with, especially if it concerns something that they believe will get them in trouble, and it is thus the responsibility of the parents to stay alert, check in with the school, learn more about friends, and make sure they do not have illegal or dangerous substances in their possession.
It is important to note that this means monitoring a child’s internet, texting, and app use. Look at texts that your child sends to friends. Note who is following them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Note the comments they make on other people’s photos and who comments on theirs. Check their history and find out if they are on adult apps, buying things online, or posting on teen hookup sites. Knowing what your kids are doing will give you the opportunity to intervene before it gets out of hand.
Creating Boundaries and Consequences
No matter what, it is important that the house rules are clear to your kids and that consequences are well known. Should you find that your child is lying about online usage, their whereabouts, friends, or drug use, it is critical that you maintain those boundaries and implement consequences without making allowances for “special circumstances.” There will always be “special circumstances” in the eyes of your child, and whether or not the punishment is viewed as fair or just, stability and consistency will help to teach your child that you mean business – follow the rules.
Some parents have a hard time when it comes to monitoring their child’s online usage because their child refuses to give them the password or deletes their history. This is solved simply: Parents must always know the passwords and login information for all social media accounts and check them regularly. If the passwords are changed, a new app or site is joined without disclosure, or if history is deleted, then the child loses all electronic devices for a period of time, and if the behavior is repeated, the loss of electronic devices lasts longer. If the child requires a phone in order to communicate with parents, old flip phones with no online access are cheap and will serve the purpose, and you can check your bill to see if texts are being sent and deleted. Additionally, by taking your phone or electronic devices to the store where they were purchased, you can have parental controls installed.
There is no scenario in which a child’s use of electronics, comings and goings, friendships, academic status at school, or any aspect of a child’s life should be unmonitored.
Maintaining Open Communication
It can be helpful to maintain open communication lines with your child as best as you can, especially during the teen years when they face so many different decisions that could have lifelong consequences. Though hormones and mood swings can get in the way, it is important to maintain a solid parent-child relationship rather than try to be buddy-buddy with your teen. Maintaining your status as a parent rather than a peer means that you are a dependable person that they can turn to when they are in trouble. They expect and need parents to provide boundaries and stability, not give way to pressure or be able to manipulate their way out of punishments in order to continue behaviors that are not in their best interests. Parenting isn’t always easy or fun, but it is made easier when emotional boundaries are set and maintained, and kids know that they can depend on their parents for guidance first and foremost.
Should you identify a problem with drug use in your child, it is never a good idea to pass it off as a “phase” or a “rite of passage.” No amount of drug or alcohol use of any kind is safe for teens, and the sooner you can make that clear, the less likely they will be to have an accident under the influence or otherwise experience life-altering consequences.
Learn more about providing your loved ones with care and recovery from substance use and abuse when you contact Greenhouse today.