This post is a free excerpt from Drugs Make You Un-Smarter.
Why did you decide to write your first book?
When I was in high school, my friends were good kids. One of my friends took a downward spiral and got caught with marijuana and paraphernalia. He was sent to rehab. When I visited him in rehab, I asked why he did it. He told me, “to get back at my parents.”
That’s why I started writing about why teens use drugs as an escape and a tool to get back at parents.
I’m very honest with parents and kids. I don’t have a counseling license. When I speak to kids who admit to drugs, I ask them to go into therapy.
Did You Ever Feel Pressure to Do Drugs?
Yes, I was pressured to do drugs. I’m in my twenties and I am still pressured.
I gave my parents plenty of gray hairs, but never because of drugs. I have one older brother and two younger sisters. They are all great, and none of us have done drugs.
When I ask kids why they do drugs, most of them tell me they are bored and there was nothing better to do. It’s easy to say no, but kids need something better to do. I decided it’s not a choice I want to make. There are too many risks and negative consequences. If you can say “No, thank you,” it helps others not as confident to say “No, thank you.” Any person who would love you more if you did drugs isn’t a person you would want to love you.
Kids need people to talk to besides their parents, such as cousins, teachers, counselors, and dance teachers. My dance teacher said she valued her body. She only wanted to put good, healthy food into her body. She worked too hard to get into shape, and never wanted to put drugs or harmful things into her body. That stuck with me.
Parenting is different with each child. There are highs and lows in relationships, but parents need to take the time to know the child’s needs, and teens should take the time to know their parents’, as well.
I work with prevention solutions. Teens want to stay sober. Parents need to provide alternative activities, concerts, or movies. If you don’t have a lot of money, have kids over for sports in the park. Get friends together for crafts.
Now, I am not delusional. I know that even if you provide enough fun activities for 100 weekends, teens will still find ways to drink/do drugs/have sex if they want. Yet, I do think that by helping create activities, you are:
a) Showing them you care
b) Showing them that you pay attention, so if they try anything, you will probably find out
c) Allowing less opportunity for them to be bored and create questionable activities out of boredom
d) Separating kids who will drink/smoke/have sex to rebel, no matter what, from those who simply end up trying it because it’s around and there’s nothing better to do. (This is totally my opinion from what I saw in high school. My group of friends and I separated from another group in 11th grade because they started drinking in a park on the weekends. Some of our parents planned trips to comedy clubs and paint-balling on the weekends and we chose to do this instead.)
Planning alternative activities can be important, but you don’t need to do it all yourself. I think it is a great idea to get together with a group of parents from school, or all of your child’s friends’ parents, and make a committee to plan something each weekend and take turns carpooling, cooking, and hosting. That way, you are not responsible for everything, and all the parents can keep an eye out for suspicious behavior together. Here are 10 suggestions for activities parents can create/provide/encourage so teens have less opportunity to come up with their own…
1. Paintballing/Mini-Golf/Laser tag: Okay, this is three in one, but teens usually love doing these kinds of activities, they can be co-ed and not that much money for a few hours of amusement (and physical activity).
2. Comedy Clubs: There are a lot of improv clubs, comedy clubs, or even coffee shops that have stand-up and that allow all ages. This can be a really fun weekend night for teens. You could also ask in advance to use a local coffee shop for the teens to do their own stand-up one night, and they will all buy coffee and bring friends as an incentive for the owner.
3. Plan a Themed Party: So, this sounds lame, but I don’t mean plan a themed party in the 4th grade sense. Hold an 80’s movie marathon and make dinner or fondue, have a pop-culture trivia night, pool party and BBQ, or a murder mystery…
4. Dinner and a Show: There are lots of places that offer dinner and then some sort of entertainment. We used to go to a place that served Mexican food and then held a salsa class with a salsa band for all ages, or you can go to a place like Medieval Times, where they have food and then a jousting show.
5. Celebrate a Holiday (no matter how minor): Luckily, my mom had lots of patience and loved to cook. We often had Valentine’s parties (my sisters, and my friends and me) Super Bowl parties (for my brother and his friends) or Halloween parties (co-ed), where she would come up with games and serve us lots of food. It definitely kept us away from the “parents-are-away-for-the-weekend” parties that were going on.
6. Game Room: We had a friend whose parents had tons of board games, a ping pong table, an air hockey table, pinball machine, and a foosball table. This was awesome. It was great when it was just girls, or just boys, but also a great way to spend time with the opposite sex when they came over. You might think about getting one of these or some video game systems, like a Wii with lots of controllers. My brother and his friends all had their own “laser-guns” and would wear vests and little blinking things and run around the neighborhood or back yards in their own version of outdoor laser tag.
7. Plan a Tournament: For boys, host a video game tournament at your house (usually just includes lots of your patience and lots of food) or, if you have the space or live near a park, have a sports day. For girls, I would also put spa party/sleepover, chocolate making party, and craft or jewelry-making party under this category. Notice how I use the term “party” loosely. In my opinion, the more you can make it feel like everyone is showing up for something special and that it is being planned for them, the more distracting and fun it can be.
8. Attend an event: Go to free outdoor concerts, big music festivals, or sports games.
9. House Hop: This one takes lots of coordination, but works really well if you do end up organizing a parent-event-planning-committee (above). Since teens get bored really easily, have four different families get together and host a different part of the night (preferably if they are in walking or short driving distance). One house does snacks and outdoor activities, then someone else has a BBQ dinner, someone else does game night, and then end with dessert.
10. Drop Off: There are lots of game centers, go-cart tracks, water parks, and theme parks where you can drop off a bunch of teens and maybe hang out in the area, have a date night while they play.
Your teens need to thank you and uphold their part of the bargain. Planning these events is a lot of work for you and they don’t come free. Let your teen know that you want to plan some fun activities, but they need to get [their grades up] this semester/do all of the clean-up before and after/help you cook/ drive a younger sister to ballet class, etc.
Lay down the rules. The whole point of planning activities is to keep [teens] out of trouble. Make sure your kids and their friends know that there is no drinking, sneaking away, or drugs at these events. My parents used to collect everyone’s keys at the beginning of the night and make everyone say hello and goodbye to make sure they were in an okay state before they left.
Many of these activities involve you planning them and then sort of, well, leaving them. I know this seems rough, but the whole point is to let teens feel like they are having fun and still having their independence so they do not need to get [attention] by rebelling. My parents were always home, but would go upstairs or stay in another room, only coming down if [our music] got too loud. They would not repeatedly check on us, because they trusted us. This made us feel more responsible so we made sure we did not, nor did any of our friends, break the rules.
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