Parenting babies and toddlers is hard work. Man, I get tired just thinking about those early years. But that saying, "little people have little problems and big people have big problems" is true. It's not that my boys didn't get into trouble or have problems when they were younger, it's just that as they gain independence and near adulthood, the stakes are higher, the consequences graver. Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart.
Moving into the high school years, your former little people change. Whereas physical development occurs in a linear fashion (they get taller for example), their emotional growth is more like a roller coaster. There is a whole lot going on in their brains. Indeed, brain studies indicate that the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps us think before we act, may not mature until the mid-twenties.
Heaven help us parents of teens.
This roller coaster of emotional growth and developing decision-making skills can lead to experimentation in everything from hairstyles to dress to drugs. Thanks to Miley Cyrus a lot of us old fogies recently learned about molly, a dangerous new form of ecstasy. And, of course, most parents are aware of alcohol and drugs like marijuana. However, most of us don't give a second thought to things like prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs sitting around our house, but those can be a danger as well.
Teens abusing cough medicine is a thing. Yeah, about 1 in 3 teens knows someone who has abused cough medicine, with about 1 in 20 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high through the ingredient DXM or dextromethorphan. ("Dextromethorphan? What's that?" you think if you're older enough to recall circa 1978 commercial.) DXM is a cough suppressant found in many OTC cough medicines. Though safe under normal, recommended use, when abused DXM can lead to side effects like vomiting, stomach pain, slurred speech distortions of color and sound, hallucinations, and loss of motor control.
The Stop Medicine Abuse website shares additional information like slang terms for DXM (robo, skittling, velvet syrup, to name a few), and helpful resources for parents. It'd good to be aware of warning signs like finding empty cough medicine boxes or bottles in your child's backpack, the trash, or for those with sneakier children, just sitting in the medicine cabinet. Some warning signs are trickier. For example, "hostile or uncooperative attitude" is part of the daily existence of many teens I know.
Communication is key when it comes to preventing any kind of drug abuse. Part of that communication include the talk, sitting down with your kids to see what they know or are hearing from their peers and sharing information and your concerns despite their eye rolls. Seriously, research indicates that teens who learn about the risks of drug use from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs.
But ongoing conversation is also key. Open communication can be tricky with teens when a lot of conversation is brief and to the point, centering around the teen's needs (like more money, a ride to the movies or the mall) and your teen's attention span moves as quickly as his fingers do when he texts his friends.
Dear parents, persevere!
Whether it's insisting on a technology-free family meal a few times a week, arranging 1:1 time with your child, or sharing a hobby (or trying to), taking time to connect and create a space for conversation is key even if the conversation doesn't go as planned. Keep in mind that the big conversations are going to happen with they're ready, not when you hope to have them.
The really cool thing about raising teens is that every now and then you get glimpses of the fabulous, sharp young adults they're becoming and as a parent, you know you want to do your best to get them there.
This post and Stop Medicine Abuse are sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. By the way, because I've been alive long enough not to have a digital footprint of my entire life, I think only about 10 people who know me online are aware that a gazillion years ago I was professional drug prevention specialist leading leadership and life skills development programs with teenagers.