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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sixteen-Year-Old Son Using Drugs

Written by  Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

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QDear Dr. Sylvia,

I am a single parent of three teenagers; a senior girl, age eighteen, a sophomore boy, age sixteen, and a freshman girl, age fourteen. My family is in crisis. I've raised these children alone since they were one, three, and five, and now my son is involved with drugs, alcohol, and is on probation. He was busted two weekends ago for MIP, driving under the influence of pot, possession of pot, and possession of paraphernalia. I couldn't believe it. Well, I guess the signs were there.

Now it's so hard for me not to feel responsible. I think about it all the time. I can't imagine this home without him in it. We don't know what he is facing, we haven't appointed an attorney yet, his probation officer dropped the ball by missing the appointment the day before he got himself in this mess, and never drug tested him ever in seven months. I do realize the probation officer is not a counselor, but I don't feel she is doing her job or did her job. It's not her that went and smoked pot; it was him, and this is his fault.

Now, my son's father wants custody. This man has never been there for him, and now I have that hanging over my head along with everything else. If for one minute I thought his father could help, I would let it happen, but this man is a pervert. He's been married three times. He's just not a strong father figure. I just feel like my family is falling to pieces, and I am helpless.

I have tried to get my son to think about Job Corp, which, if successful, the charges could be dropped, but my son's not cooperating at all. I've called a million places to get some sort of help for him, but I just get the run around. I just can't quit crying. It's tearing me up. I was really having a hard time accepting the oldest going away to college, now there will be two children out of the home, and I'm just lost.

I've tried to talk to a few friends, but I feel like I am bothering them. I can't afford counseling, and free services around here are unheard of. I just don't know how to cope. I feel lost.

I feel like this could have been prevented if I'd been a better parent, I can't help but feel like I have failed.

I don't know where to turn for any answers. My son admits he's just a recreational user, and this was the first time he'd gotten high in six months. The school has him pegged as "doper" and has basically shunned him, and compared him to his sisters. The senior is an honor student, great kid. The youngest is an excellent athlete, and my son stuck in the middle. He seems to be doing everything in his power to be different than his sisters.


The Job Corp would provide your son with an excellent experience, and perhaps there might be other male role models who would influence him more positively. Be sure not to blame his problems on anyone but him, or he will surely get in the habit of searching for an easy way out. His problem is certainly not his probation officer's fault. It would also be inappropriate to say things to your son like, "You're like your father." That would only encourage him to act like his dad, and by your description that may not be so good. I feel like this could have been prevented if I'd been a better parent. I can't help but feel like I have failed.

Being the only boy in an all-girl household is not easy. Your son's desperate need for difference may come indirectly from his need to establish his masculinity. Your son definitely needs some male role models and some positive interests. Perhaps you have a male friend who can encourage him, or a male teacher who could make a difference.

You would benefit greatly from counseling. Almost every community has counselors who will see some patients free of charge or on a sliding scale. It is very difficult for a single parent to not have another adult they can talk to about family issues. Your son will not be helped if you feel guilty or if you take the blame for his problems. Your children will benefit greatly if you feel more confident and supported.

Dr. Sylvia

Last modified on Sunday, 19 June 2011 14:28
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Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

Sylvia B. Rimm, PhD

Dr. Sylvia Rimm is a psychologist and best-selling author with a national following. She is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

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