Can I Let Her Date A “Reformed” Druggie?

Hi,

My 15 (almost 16) yr. old daughter has been dating a boy (same age) for the past 6 months.  This is her first boyfriend.  She has been upfront with us concerning his past drug usage (smoking pot).  He was in rehab and on probation for a year when the drug sniffing dogs found a pipe in his locker.  She assures us that he is not smoking, but I’m still worried about it.  They mostly hang out at his house because he lives in a part of town where they can walk around (park, diner, baseball field) and he has friends over a lot of the time so they aren’t alone too much.  I guess my question is do I trust my daughter?  I’ve not noticed any changes in her.  I pick her up and talk to her and she doesn’t seem to be any different (high).  I just don’t want her to go down that path.  He seems like a nice kid–very kind to our daughter and treats his mom with the greatest respect.

Thanks,
Lisa

Hi Lisa,

What can I say? Where there’s smoke there’s fire and it sounds to me like you are definitely smelling smoke. You want to trust your daughter unequivocally but frankly, at her age it’s tough. Adolescents are very, very influenced by their peers and the pressure to go along with whatever is happening at the time is intense. Their primary quest is to find acceptance within their peer group. And when you add romance to the mix, the pressure to “be cool” in whatever way that particular group defines it gets even stronger.

Here’s what I find troubling about the situation you described:

1. While on probation and in rehab for what must have been an arrest for drug possession, a pipe was found in his locker. The fact that drug-sniffing dogs were even brought to his locker indicates that someone in authority was suspicious that this young teenager (15) was using. What was the pipe doing there? Is he still using? Hard to tell but it certainly looks suspicious. Your mom radar has been activated and you are worried that he is lying. And with good cause.

2. She is hanging out at his house with his friends. Who are his friends? What are they doing while they are there? Is his mother around at the time? Do you know her? I would be very concerned about who those friends are. Birds of a feather flock together and since he has a history of drug use it only follows that his friends were using drugs as well. He wasn’t getting high alone. So are these new friends or friends from the past? The fact that his drug use ended up with him getting involved with the police, the courts and a medical facility indicates that his problem with drugs is significant. Not a small thing, especially at such a young age.

I hope that the young man is truly on the right path now and that he is getting the help and support he needs. I hope his mom is all over him with respect to supervision and boundaries. But I would advise you to be extremely careful with this situation. It’s got “red flags” all over it.

So, what can you do?

For starters you might want to rethink your decision to let her hang out at his house with his friends so much. Why can’t he come over to your house where you can monitor the situation better? That will also give you the chance to get to know him better and to see for yourself what kinds of things they like to do together. And don’t be shy about being in the room with them. No locked (or even closed) doors allowed.

Also, it might be a good idea to get to know his mother a bit better. Talk on the phone, or better yet, meet for coffee. After you shmooze for a while, let her know that it’s now a family rule that your kids are not allowed to go to friends’ homes unless their parents are there and actively supervising. Is she willing to do that when/if your daughter comes to visit? If you can get her to support you in this area it will be a huge help to you in laying down the law (in a nice way) with your daughter. If she doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the supervision request, you may want to put the brakes on those get-together’s at his house.

Assuming though that she does, let your daughter know that you had “such a nice talk with his mom” and that after talking, the two of you agreed that it’s important for parents to be home when kids are there etc. You want your daughter (and her boyfriend) to know that you are on the job and in her life and taking the time to check the situation out yourself. You also want to circumvent the inevitable, “His mom is so much cooler/trusting/respectful/less paranoid than you!”

Lastly, you might want to do whatever you can to broaden your daughter’s world. Can you help her get involved with other people/sports/activities/community projects/clubs/ jobs? In other words, can you help her to make him a smaller part of her world by integrating other things into it? She is young enough that you can still exert a lot of influence. You might even want to do some weekend family get-aways with no friends allowed.

Your daughter is most likely going to want to know why you are making these changes now. You can tell her that you have been a little concerned for a while about her boyfriend and their relationship because of his history. You know that she really cares for him and you want to get to know him better. But in the meantime, she is your primary concern and it’s your job to make sure she is safe and healthy and not in situations that could spell trouble for her.

You don’t need to rag on the boyfriend. Enough to say that his past behavior was very serious and worrisome to you. You hope he has turned a new leaf but until you are absolutely certain about that, you are going to have to take it slow. Explain that trust is something that must be earned and that it takes time.

Hang in there and don’t give up! Listen to your gut; stay connected; and be a strong presence in her life.

We love getting all of your questions and want to give you everything that our combined brains have to offer. So keep sending them in! But if you are looking for a more personal touch with lots more detail and follow up, please visit us at AskMamaEllen.com or AskDrMama.com and order up the royal treatment. You deserve it, Mama!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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