Taking Action Against Addiction: An At-Risk Teen Describes How to Keep Addictions out of Your Teenager’s Life

By Catherine H. Knott, Ph.D.

“Brendan” is six feet tall, with shoulder-length reddish brown hair, good looks, and a quiet voice. He fits anyone’s definition of an at-risk teen. He lives with his brother and their single mother, who struggles financially while she spends long hours divided between her job and finishing her own college degree. She is often away in the evenings.

In addition, the family deals daily with the residue of serious domestic violence from the boys’ alcoholic father. They have moved several times in the past few years. But Brendan, who just turned 18 and is about to enter his senior year of high school, is making good grades. His brother, age 16, blond and popular, was recently named high school Junior Prom King, and is now busy training for a pole vaulting competition. Brendan himself draws positive attention from his science teachers for his excellent work, runs on the cross-country team, and makes movies based on classic literature.

While both of these young men have experimented with alcohol and marijuana, they have stayed away from more serious illegal drugs, and have consciously made choices to avoid abusing drugs and alcohol in the future.

How have these two young men avoided the pitfalls of alcohol and drug abuse and addiction? I recently interviewed Brendan and asked him to describe what helped him stay away from drugs, what mistakes he saw his friends make, and what he would suggest, from a teen perspective, for parents of teenagers today. I also talked to his mother, to get her perspective on what helps her teenagers survive and thrive. Finally, I talked to a social worker who knows the family, to find out what she thinks is going right in this family, and what ways they could do even better during the vulnerable teen years. Each had a different story about why things worked; together, they demonstrate what success can look like.

Learn more about the choices Brendan and his brother have made to avoid abusing drugs and alcohol now and in the future >>

Dating Dilemmas: What to do When Your Daughter is Dating a Boy You Can’t Stand

Part of growing up is testing the limits of what your parents find acceptable and what they don’t. A bit of rebellion – ok, a lot of rebellion – is to be expected from even the most cooperative child. And, c’mon parents, we know we can be just a teensy bit passive-aggressive when it comes to making and enforcing the rules as well. Still, some aspects of surviving the teen years, for both parents and kids, have nothing at all to do with testing limits, rebellion, or learning to live with a hormonal teenager; they’re just life.

Just as you’ve certainly not always liked everyone you’ve come across, you’re not likely to find that you like everyone your kids come across either. Occasionally, and sometimes more than occasionally, you’ll find that your teen’s friends make your hair stand on end. And, if your teen daughter elects to start dating one of those undesirables, you might just want to pull all that hair out!

Teens choose to date who they date for a number of reasons. Your daughter might be attracted to the captain of the football teen, the misunderstood tough guy, the mysterious loner, the class clown, or the always in a fix bad boy. She might react to peer pressure when selecting a date, she might go against the grain and date someone completely different, or she might want a guy with exactly the same values and goals as she has. And, sometimes, just sometimes, she picks a guy you don’t like just to spite you. But, if you’ve lived completely through the teen years with one or more children, you’ve likely noticed that the dates your daughter chooses are a perplexing mix of all of the above.

Read more tips about how to deal with your daughter’s date when you absolutely can’t stand him >>