Dear Aunt Traci,
I live in Austin Texas and I am a single parent with 2 boys. One is 18 and one is 11. The 18 year old's name is Lavan and he is obsessed with sports. His room is decorated with sports, his backpack is covered in his favorite football team and even his yarmulke has the Giants logo on it. He can get really riled up whenever I don't let him do what he wants.
Late last weekend, I was looking in his room to see if he did his homework, because he left to sleep over at the neighbors. While looking in his desk, I found a marijuana joint. I noticed that he was getting calmer lately, but I never noticed until now. I am VERY surprised because no-one else in the family has done anything this outrageous. But the thing is, is it was nice when would get calm. Instead of having to get him off of the television after his daily hour of T.V. was up, I would let him be outside sitting in the grass.
I have no idea if i should bust him or let him off the hook!? Please help me Aunt Traci, I am in need of your assistance A.S.A.P!
Leave Lavan Alone?
First off, thank you so much for writing me! I know firsthand how shocking and upsetting it can be to find drugs in your teenager's room. You ask yourself the question, "Did I do something wrong, somehow?"
Let me address that first. You did not. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent about a year attending Families Anonymous meetings, and in that time discovered that a teenager's behavior is their own. Lavan is doing this as his own choice. You sound like a loving, empathetic parent who is doing the best you can in raising your sons on your own. So, let any guilt you may have go.
Secondly, what to do about your son. My answer would be very different if it were the 11-year-old we were talking about. Lavan is legally an adult, and that makes a huge difference. Many people don't know this, but I smoked pot every day from the age of 18 until I got pregnant with my oldest daughter at 24. In that time, I went to college, graduated with honors, and began graduate school. It's not the pot that is the issue, it's the reason the person smokes it.
From your letter, it sounds like Lavan is primarily using marijuana to change his emotional state and calm his anxiety and anger. At the time of this writing, it appears that Texas has a very limited medical marijuana law in effect. Before even talking with your son, I would get additional information on that law, how easy or hard it is to get a medical marijuana card, and what are the consequences of illegally possessing marijuana.
Then, you have the conversation. Wait until he is relaxed and calm and say something like, "Hey. Can I talk to you for a moment? The other day when you were spending the night at so and so's house, I found a half-smoked joint in your room. Let me say first off that I'm not mad and you're not in trouble. That's not what this talk is about. My guess is that you were smoking weed because it helps you calm down. Am I right?" He then nods or whatever. "I actually noticed! I felt really good seeing you happier and calmer. So, I want you to know that I understand your reasons. The thing is, we have your brother in the house. He's only 11, and at this time, it's illegal to have pot in the house. I could get arrested and then there wouldn't be anyone to raise you guys. So, we can't have anything illegal in the house. But I don't want to leave you without any way to manage your anxiety." And then you talk about either getting him a card to obtain it legally, or some other medication that would help him manage his anxiety. You also might talk to him about how professional athletes manage their stress and anxiety. Since he considers them role models, let him know that athletes can't use drugs, but have other ways, like exercise and mediation to manage their emotions. Remind your son that managing feelings and emotions is a universal problem, and we all need to find ways to handle our feelings in a healthy way.
But the thing is, Leave, that's only half the solution. He will eventually need to go "deeper" and find out why he is feeling angry and anxious in the first place. It might have to do with the reason you're a single parent in the first place. It might be something else. Regardless, teaching him the healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, anger, et cetera is something to do for the long term benefits of his life. It's like taking antibiotics when you're sick. You take them to kill the germs, not forever. And then you work on strengthening your immune system to make sure you don't get sick again.
The bottom line is this... approach the situation with empathy. He sounds like a good kid who is trying to solve a very real problem in the best way he can. You can't let him engage in activity that isn't legal, of course. But you can help him solve the problem, and doing so will help bring you closer together.
"Listen to the desires of your children. Encourage them and then give them the autonomy to make their own decision."