Dear Straight Talk: What should I do? My son is 16 and wants to hang out with someone who is a very bad influence and I don't know how to go about preventing that. Whenever they spend time together, my son comes home edgy, irritable, and out of sorts. He isolates himself from us and it takes a day or two to start acting himself again. We normally communicate well and hear what is going on in his life, but when he spends time with "Kevin" that all shifts. Lately he wants to hang out with Kevin more. Kevin is a very troubled individual. I have empathy for him, but my gut says trouble is ahead if they hang out too much. Any ideas? -- Claudia
Gregg, 20: Your son is using drugs. I guarantee, if you drug-test him when he comes home after being with Kevin, it will show positive. And I bet the drug is not weed, but meth, cocaine, or ecstasy. Even if I'm wrong, he should be restricted from anyone who creates such a negative behavioral change.
I went through a rough patch with drugs in high school and my parents waited a bit, then put their foot down hard. I was mad at first, but less than a month later, I was grateful. Being drug-tested made it easy for me to say no when I was out with my "drug friends." These friendships soon faded because without the drugs, there was no point. I recommend you test your son next time he comes home acting like you describe. (You must actually watch him pee.) If the tests are negative, you probably aren't doing something correctly so get your test kits and instructions from a rehab center.
Sarah, 19: A good friend in middle school was into some pretty bad things. Luckily, I was a good influence on her instead of the other way around. Had it been the reverse, though, my parents would have noticed immediately and made me stop seeing her. I would have rather lost her friendship than kept it and gained a drug addiction. If Kevin is negatively affecting your son, his health and happiness are worth ending their friendship.
Lauren, 19: Talk to your son about your observations! I was raised in L.A. where it's easy to lose yourself. Mom never directly prevented friendships, but she always pushed me into other things, like sports and theater, which helped me make real relationships.
Brie, 20: It's a tricky balance between restrictions and letting kids learn from mistakes. My brother got into a lot of trouble in high school and it took him getting arrested to wake up. I also got in trouble (for drinking) and it was just the consequence I needed to adjust my lifestyle.
Christina, 19: A close friend started hanging out with the wrong crowd a couple years back. His mother tried to step in but she wasn't very strict about it. He is now in a detention center. Your son is not telling you the whole story. Please restrict him from hanging out with Kevin.
Dear Claudia: I agree with Gregg that your son is using drugs. Furthermore, your letter indicates he is having a negative mental reaction to them and showing signs of addiction.
Any desire for him to "learn on his own" versus regulating his life, goes out the window with these signs. It's parental spine time. Please step in hard with drug-testing and full restrictions on this friendship -- the sooner the better. A source of accurate, inexpensive test kits and testing protocol is at Recovery Happens (www.recoveryhappens.com).
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