- You know that the normal parenting lines ("all drugs are bad!") aren't going to work for you, not only because you don't wish to lie to your kids, as is the cultural norm, but also because you have a commitment to non-coercive communication and to letting your kids know that you take them seriously and respect their ability to understand things.
- On the other hand, you recognize that addictions can be very serious, and kids tend to have both poor judgment and an unrealistic view of their own understanding of the world and powers to successfully navigate tricky things like drug use and sexual relationships.
- Taking an extreme stance such as complete prohibition of drug use and/or sexual activity tends to give the prohibited activity a glamor and allure all it's own.
- On the other hand, too casual of a stance can lead a kid to not take it seriously enough, so it seems like there's a fairly narrow path to navigate in which you don't want to err in either direction.
- Complicating things further is the fact that, in our current anti-all-drugs-except-those-hocked-by-the-right-pharmaceutical-corporation cultural climate, being too casual with your kids about the fact that you have in the past and maybe still do smoke a little pot from time to time can lead to things like losing custody of your kids over a casual remark made at school by a kid who was taught not to freak the fuck out about each and every instance of drug use.
But I wonder why the article assumes that you wouldn't be discussing this with your kid unless they asked you point-blank about your drug use? I assume they think a good parent would be discussing drug use in general with their kids, so why wouldn't you include your own experience in this discussion? I'm not sure how to discuss things like this without referencing my own experience. I'm also not sure why I would expect my kid to trust me if I was deliberately refusing to discuss my experience while expounding on the topic as if I was some kind of expert.
So I think about my own experience, and which factors influenced me the most. Of course, my parents took a hard-line abstinence approach all the way down the line: sex, drugs, alcohol, you name it. Just don't do it. And so they just seemed irrelevant to me when it came to these issues. What did influence me?
Well, first there's the fact that I'm lucky to have the opposite of an addictive personality. Also, I think I was always good about factoring in consequences and looking at the long-term, even as a teen. So I would try things, but in small quantities, and only in circumstances where I felt safe. I wouldn't get drunk off my ass at a frat party or do ecstasy at a rave where I didn't know most of the people and all my friends were already drunk or high. The possibilities were just too scary to me. This might have something to do with the fear of being in a bad situation - one that you can neither control nor escape from - that develops out of a childhood experience of sexual abuse. At least in my case. So my early abuse situation led me to be a fairly sensible teen. Go figure.
But also, I lived in Seattle, where high quality pot (BC bud, y'all) was cheap and plentiful, so things like meth just didn't seem that interesting to us. I clearly remember my chemistry teacher telling us one day that certain drugs (acid, ecstasy, meth) caused permanent structural and chemical changes in your brain the first time you tried them. Someone asked about pot. He hedged for a second, not wanting to look like he was encouraging us to use pot, no doubt, and then said that the research he had seen showed that pot doesn't cause these changes, but takes about 6 months to completely flush out of your system and for your brain functioning to return to normal if you've been using it regularly. I'm not sure how accurate this info is, since I'm sure lots of research has been done since. But if you look at how addicting meth is, for instance, compared to pot, it seems like there has to be some truth in this. And as a teen this really struck me, and profoundly influenced the way I approached drugs. Don't get me wrong - I would drink and smoke pot around my friends, and did it often. But there were certain drugs I just wasn't all that interested in because of this knowledge.
A few years ago I was teaching at the alternative school, and I would frequently get into discussions about this stuff with students. Most of the kids there come from broken homes and messed up situations that often involve addiction and abuse, and they seek out stable adults who will have frank discussions with them about these topics that are so relevant to their lives. I remember having a lunchtime discussion with a couple of the girls about why I couldn't understand why some of the girls wanted to get pregnant. In this discussion I ended up finally articulating what had motivated a lot of my behavior as a teen.
To me, the most valuable thing a teen/young adult has is options. Quite honestly, as a teen/very young adult it's highly unlikely that you really know yet what you want your life to look like. You may not have discovered all your talents and passions and shortcomings yet, so trying to force yourself into some niche at this point in time can be disastrous. And behaviors that lead to pregnancy and addiction curtail the choices available to you and send your life on a trajectory that you'll probably dislike and regret years from now. So the best thing you can do for yourself is leave your options open, and give yourself time to explore and discover who you are and what you want.
When I imagine my kids as teens, I think about how I want them to explore the world and enjoy themselves, but also to take themselves seriously enough to leave their options open. I don't want them to be scared of sex and alcohol and drugs, but I do want them to be cautious and factor in the consequences of their actions. And I think this will be the motivating force behind my discussions of drug use (and sexual relationships) with them. I want them to feel relaxed about it and free to discuss the issues with me as they come up, and I'll use little opportunities along the way to bring up the issues in an age-appropriate manner. But I want to be the one they turn to for info and advice. And I want them to see the seriousness of the choices they make, but without being afraid of the world or of new experiences.
It's kind of a big task I've set for myself. Is it doable? I hope so.