Tackling the telltale signs of drug use
Agree a plan for keeping safe
Try to come up with a plan for keeping him safe from drugs. This can include avoiding certain peer groups or social situations where he might be under pressure to use drugs or encouraging him to concentrate on more healthy pursuits and peer groups in his life.
It could also involve helping him be more assertive and to say “no” in certain situations, as well as seeking counselling either individually or with you as a family. The ideal, of course, is for him to agree to this plan and for you to help him carry it out but even if he does not, there are still things you can do to help keep him safe.
For example, you can increase your vigilance and monitoring of his whereabouts, or make pocket money or other privileges dependent on him engaging more positively in school or other activities. If he resists your rules, you can say these are only temporary until you can rebuild some trust with him and you are more sure he is not using drugs and back on track in his life.
Keep positive and encourage him in other aspects of his life
Independent of whatever drug use he might be involved in, continue to positively encourage him to engage in other healthy and positive aspects of his life such as engaging in school or sport, healthy hobbies, voluntary work or anything else that might be a positive influence in his life.
Keep the lines of communication open between you
Whatever happens, work hard at keeping the lines of communication open between you. Don’t let this drive a wedge between you or to become the only issue in your relationship with him. Continue to reach out and connect with him.
Take an interest in what he enjoys and try to have a daily time of checking in with him that is not just focused on “monitoring” or “disciplining” him, but rather on building a relationship with him. In the long term, it is the quality of your relationship with him that will give you the best chance of positively influencing him.
Seek outside help and support
Finally, there are various counselling and advice services that may be helpful to you and your son, such as the drugs helpline drugs.ieor 1800-459459. Even if your son does not initially engage, you can make contact as a concerned parent for advice and support.
In association with The Irish Times, John Sharry will be presenting a series of public talks on positive family mental health starting on April 11th. See solutiontalk.ie.
Dr John Sharry is a social worker and psychotherapist and director of Parents-Plus charity