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Teen years can be full of troubles

Adolescents from 12 to 17 will exhibit a variety of behaviors, from tantrums, to verbal confrontation, defiance of rules and boundaries to many other irrational thoughts and behaviors.

So, this is in answer to the mother’s question of “How do you tell what are ‘normal’ behaviors and those that are drug-related?”

The profile of a drug-abusing adolescent behaviors goes something like this: violent or aggressive behaviors, school truancy, risky sexual behavior, delinquency, associating with anti-social peers, conduct problems at home or school. The impact of these behaviors can be devastating to the family because very often, family negativity takes the form of family members starting to blame each other for both the adolescent’s and the family’s problems. In terms of boundaries, some adolescents have families who had problems before they began using alcohol and other drugs, such as parental alcohol or drug use or other anti-social behavior, parental over – or under involvement with the adolescent, poor communication between parent and adolescent, lack of boundaries and consequences for adolescent behavior, inconsistent application of rules and consequences for adolescent behaviors, inadequate monitoring and management of adolescent activities with peers, lack of adult supervision of activities with peers, because of some families’ irrational thinking and behaviors.

Communication among family members is contaminated with anger, bitterness, hostility and animosity. Drug-abusing behavior of adolescents does not happen in a vacuum. It exists within an environment that includes family, peers, neighborhood and the culture that defines the rules, values and behaviors of the adolescent.

The family is the primary content in which the adolescent learns.

Thus, for those parents dealing with adolescents who are having or had problems with chemicals — what do you do?

The first think you don’t do is to take your child to a $190 an hour psychologist. Over the past 35 years I have found that counseling young teens with professional counseling frequently makes matters worse.

All too often, professional mental health counselors give children the impression that not only do their feelings “rule,” but their rebellious, disrespectful behavior is in some way justified by their parents’ failing. In all fairness, that may not be the intention, but it is the all-too-frequent outcome.

Today we have “school counselors” that have some chemical dependency background in their degree. I would set up an appointment first with them. If that doesn’t work, I would talk with my doctor and have a urine screen or blood test administered. Remember now, we are talking about a child out of control that needs help. You are the leader of your family, or you should be, so for God’s sake, lead.

Recent research suggests that in the presence of drug using or delinquent peers, parents have a great influence over their adolescents. If it gets to the point that your adolescent needs an assessment of an out-patient drug rehab, the only answer you as a parent should give him or her is “you are going, no buts.” I say this, because the parents that took this tough stand, many, many times watched their children change their thinking and behaviors and get better. I’ve had teenagers sit in my REBT group and say, “if it weren’t for my mom and dad, I wouldn’t be alive. I owe them.”

The main reason I’m writing this article is the calls I get from parents who are minimized on the telephone. The other reason is after 38 years in this field, is the sharing of what’s really going on in our area. Everyone who works in rehab talks about Fentanyl. Fentanyl has been around for a long, long time. What hasn’t been around are drugs like ice, msdsm, ketamine and ya ba, synthetic marijuana, synthetic crystal meth. These drugs are in our county, but no one really talks about them. Adolescents are taking a big risk with the synthetic drugs that are 20% to 80% stronger than Fentanyl. The dealers in Thailand are executed on the spot for dispensing Ya ba because of the overdose deaths. Why, as a parent, should you be concerned? Because 42% of high school students admit to “vaping” one to three times weekly. As they use, and because the adolescent mind thinks they are invincible, they will experiment further.

The number of attempted suicides among young girls from 12 to 17 has risen 51% the last 5 years. I’m not going to go into the thinking patterns of teenagers in this article. I’ll save that for next month. However, from dealing with this age group in teaching, coaching and counseling, I feel they are going undiagnosed as to what is really going on. My colleagues will tell you it’s the pandemic and kids are frightened and depressed because they’ve been dealt some tough times. We were taught in the ’50s and ’60s “tough times don’t last – tough people do.”

If you, as a parent, are stymied and feel your child is in control and not you, call me. There is a number at the end of this article. Remember, no matter what has happened in your family, your purpose as a parent was to lead these kids to be better people and practice the “Golden Rule” or “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

Mike Tramuta has been a CASAC counselor for more than 30 years and currently runs the REBT program on Thursday nights at the Holy Trinity Parish Center from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Call 983-1592 for more information.

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