As A Teen, Did You Smoke Weed?

“When Your Asks, “Did You ?”

A potentially tough question can lead to a healthy conversation.

Part of parenting is being asked to answer some tough questions. Do you believe in God? Why is there so much terror in the world? Why don’t I have a lot of friends? And, among many others, the question that some parents may dread: As a teen, did you smoke weed?

The article in the New York Times cited above got me thinking about how I may have reacted when my son did (or could have) asked the question. It’s all a bit blurry at this point. (That should be a clue right there.) But knowing who I was then and how I parented, my guess is that I tried the “lecture” approach—you know, citing all the bad things pot can do to one’s not yet completely formed brain, affirming that pot is a “gateway” drug that can lead to harder stuff. All the obvious “adult” responses that made me out to be a hypocrite and a lecturer instead of a listener. I missed one of those magic moments when teens ask a question that, when answered honestly, can end up opening the lines of communication for more questions down the line and can, according to new research, impact adolescents to be less likely to experiment with drugs.
Regardless of what your history is, it can help to receive “Did you smoke weed?” as an overture rather than an inquisition. Your teenager probably has more pressing questions lined up behind that one. Whether conscious of it or not, a teenager asking, “What choice did you make?” is often wondering, “What choice should I make?”
So, as I drink the truth cool aid and face facts, the truth had been out of the bag for years. My friends liked to party. We were in our 30s, and it seemed there was a party on the social calendar almost every week end. The majority of us had young children and, when we hosted the gang, it was our assignment to get the kids “down” and out before the festivities began.

But my son was smart; he knew something was up. He must have hoodwinked me into thinking he was off in Never Never Land when, in fact, he was waiting patiently until I closed his bedroom door and tiptoed downstairs. He wasn’t fooled but did, when he was older, ask me the “Did you smoke weed?” question. As I said earlier, I didn’t rise to the occasion; in fact, I probably denied that I’d ever smoked pot or that I’d smoked but had soon come to realize the error of my ways.

“But I smelled it,” I remember him saying. “How could I not?”

I fumbled for some response to get me off the hook. But he had me where he wanted me—caught in a bold-face lie.

That should have been the moment when I owned up and listened to what he had to say: what he thought, the peer pressure he might have felt, whether he’d already smoked a joint.

As soon as I post this, I’m calling my son. I need to set the record straight—even if he’s 44 and long into his own adulthood and his own decisions about pot and everything else.

Teens Talk About Their Anxiety

I found it disheartening that the major topics of discussion among teens as reflected in “Teenagers’ View of the News” (New York Times, October 22, 2018) were Trump (not a surprise!), teen anxiety, N.F.L. kneeling, birth control, Columbus Day, Harvey Weinstein, Puerto Rico and the Boy Scouts.  (That last one did surprise me.)

As the author of the upcoming 2nd edition of Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide that includes a major section on anxiety and depression, one on sexual/physical abuse, and another on the disturbing political atmosphere, the letters written by teens in response to the NY Times’ Student Challenge both validated the experts whom I interviewed for the book but, at the same time, reaffirmed the sometimes overwhelming challenges kids face growing up today—challenges that when I was growing up weren’t, for the most part, on our radar screens.

Much of teen anxiety revolves around the pressures of academics: getting good grades, getting in to good colleges, pleasing parents, meeting their own expectations.

If high school is about educating students for a future life, then why is it causing such anxiety that there is an increasing number of hospital admissions for teenage suicide attempts? Why do we have to think about our adult life every day as a teenager? I’m a junior in high school, and sometimes I forget that I’m supposed to have a life as a teenager. I can’t sleep at night; all I do is stay up thinking and planning. Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety? It’s because we get it into our heads that school is what’s going to make things better; we live for the future instead of actually just living.   NATALIE JEW, 16

Growing up a 21st-century overachiever, I’ve constantly heard adults justify my ambition with a “Type A” diagnosis. I was deemed “hardworking” and “competitive” by parents of classmates, who assumed my top marks in fourth-grade spelling were surely associated with “smart-aleck” arrogance. Back then, there were two overarching sorting compartments, Type A and Type B, and you accepted wherever you best fit.

Because of a liberal shift, these broad groupings have divided into numerous specific boxes. Be careful — new personality modifiers can contort your identity like a Twister board. If you spread yourself thin using too many adjectives, the traits lose their meaning. I’m not “smart”; psychoanalysts proclaim I’m an “erudite perfectionist.”

Which is better: asking our next generation of leaders to define themselves given two limited options, or attaching a string of senseless adjectives to them? When can I just be “me?    LAUREN HIRSCHMANN, 17

And then there’s sexual/physical abuse:

Along with the onslaught of articles condemning Mr. Weinstein are articles blaming victims for their reactions, expressing shock at the fact that some of the women accepted money settlements. Sexual harassment is not the women’s fault. It is not up to the victims to fix.

I cannot speak for all women of my generation, but I would like for ours to be the last that teaches daughters to be modest rather than sons to be respectful.    INES AITSAHALIA, 17

On President Trump:

Mr. Trump’s most keen sense is what is best for him; his cavalier disregard for political norms made him popular as a candidate from the beginning. No matter the damage they cause, Mr. Trump’s divergences from custom are only to support his personal interests.

ELIJAH POMERANTZ, 17

And More Anxiety

I am an American teenager who is neither affluent nor economically disadvantaged. I am your everyday brand of adolescent anxiety caused by more than just social media. My generation is affected by more than just swipes and likes on an app. We were born into an era of fear resulting from knowing only the post-9/11 world of constant “when will the next one be?” We are all afraid for our futures because of the violent political climate we’re in because of the current president. My generation is the most socially liberal in decades and we hope for a more accepting and tolerant future, but still we are anxious about that future because of Mr. Trump. Our anxiety is about more than just Instagram.

CELESTE CHAPMAN, 17

Let our teens speak.  Let them tell their truth.  And let us adults listen!

 

 

LGBTQ Teens Face An Extra Set of Stressors That Most Straight Teens Do Not

All teens, regardless of their gender/sex identity, worry about the same

things: grades, making friends, dating, getting into college. But LGBTQ

teens face an extra set of stressors that most straight teens do not.

  • Being outed – Having someone identify your sex/gender identity before you’re ready.

    I first came out to my dad, sister, and two really close friends. One of those friends decided to tell pretty much everyone on our baseball team because, in his words, he wanted to warn them. I was really mad at him. My teammates started acting kind of weird around me, they stopped inviting me places, and things like that. It was my senior year of high school so I decided to just stick with it. I stoppedbeing friends with the guy who outed me after that.

It is NEVER okay to out someone without his/her permission.

  • Rejection by family and friends

In “Growing Up LGBT in America”—a 2012 survey among more than ten thousand LGBT youth ages thirteen to seventeen—the teens were asked to describe the most important problem facing their lives.“Non-accepting families” ranked number one, with 26 percent of the respondents. When they were asked to describe one thing in their lives they would like to change, 15 percent said “my parent/family situation.” For those teens—particularly those who are not out to their family—they often fear how their family will react, knowing they are homo-/bi-/transphobic or swayed by their religion that condemns homosexuality. Still, given the fear of rejection and the disappointment they may well cause their family, more than half of the teens surveyed said they are out to their immediate family, about half said they have an adult in the family they could turn to for help, but less than a third chose their family among a list of places where they most often hear positive messages about being LGBT.

When families reject their LGBT children (even if unintended), they may try to change their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, assume it’s just a “phase,” or prevent them from having LGBT riends. The results? Suicide attempts. High levels of depression. Using illegal drugs. High risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Physical Safety at School and Beyond —LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school. More than one third say they don’t come out at school because they will be treated differently or judged. “Growing Up LGBT in America” supported the fact that growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can be a rough ride with all kinds of challenges. When asked what the most difficult problem they were facing in their lives “these days,” 21 percent said “trouble at school/ bullying.” (Interestingly, 22 percent of non-LGBT youth listed “trouble with classes/exams/grades.) The report found that 51 percent of LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school, verbally harassed and called names at school. That number compares to 25 percent of non-LGBT students.

Despite these statistics, a healthy 75 percent of LGBT teens say that most of their peers don’t have a problem with their gender identity.

Harassment & Abuse

August’s Story—Nineteen-year-old August, who identifies as a non-binary transgender, was sexually abused at school from the time she was ten until age twelve. She doesn’t remember much from that time: “Probably a survival mechanism. I felt like a robot. I figured my abuser would either leave or that I’d go to another school.”  August didn’t know the word rape, didn’t even hear the word until a year after the abuse began. To this day, she is deeply upset that the school withheld information because the teachers and administrators didn’t want to upset the students or add to their own discomfort.

A Happy Ending:
August is now involved in a youth program for LGBTQ teens.  It’s the first time she’s been around “queers” her age and heard them talking about abuse, self abuse, gender.  It has, she says, affected her mental health in a very positive way.  “I am not alone.”
  • Homelessness—It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that because somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, they must be delinquents who cause tremendous discord at home or who are running from the law or unable to abide by rules set by their parents. Not true. The majority of homeless LGBT youth are what David Bond, vice president of Programs, The Trevor Project, labeled “refugees or asylum seekers” who are escaping really bad conditions at home or have been rejected, often kicked out. According to one study, 26 percent of gay teens were kicked out of their homes when they came out to their parents. Their only way to “survive” has been to choose the worst of two evils: fend for themselves or stay in a toxic, often dangerous situation.
  • their homes when they came

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