Mr. Atwater: We have a 17-, soon to be 18-year-old son. He’s a good kid and was an occasional pot smoker through most of high school, but within the past year he has started smoking much more often – sometimes before school, after school and later after work.
He’s seen counselors for other issues but seems to feel fine about the pot use. His grades are starting to suffer, and he’s much moodier and angrier. We caught him smoking at home, a big infraction of our rules, and now we’re wondering what to do.
Dear Reader: Usually what your question means is “how do I get my kid to stop smoking weed?” There are too many pieces missing to the puzzle to give you a good answer, but I’ll start by saying doing something now as opposed to when he was 12 or 13 will be different. First of all, you aren’t going to get him to quit smoking weed. He might stop, and you might be able to help facilitate that decision, but you won’t get him to quit.
Problems like you describe usually take a period of time to incubate and then pick up the necessary velocity to be noticed, so although it may seem to you like things changed in the past year, I guarantee you things were changing before that. You also mentioned he had been in counseling for “other issues,” which might yield some clues (for him) as to what he needs to work on.
We almost have to handle two separate problems. The first is what you will do that might affect what he will do. The second is what he will do. With a 17-year-old living in your house, I assume you have some boundaries and some rules. You will need to continue to enforce those rules. With a 17-year-old who has a driver’s license, you might have a little leverage to use. But the main focus needs to be how you can be most helpful.
I suggest building in a requirement for a drug evaluation and follow through with any recommendations as part of any plan you make with him.
A good evaluation will help to guide whatever comes next, whether treatment of some kind or not. If treatment is required, the first step is to provide a safe and nonjudgmental environment for each young person to begin to make good decisions for themselves and how they need to handle their issues.
• Rick Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.