Intervention is essential for adolescents
Dear Mariann: My teenage daughter has declining grades and I’ve noticed that alcohol in my cabinet is missing, how can I approach her with this problem?
Mariann’s Response: My guess is that her “declining grades” are directly related to your suspicion of alcohol usage and the time for action was the moment you noticed a shortage from your liquor cabinet. Early intervention concerning potential substance abuse or any mental health issue for adolescents is essential.
Starting a dialogue with her about the two components you mentioned should occur in a non-threatening tone. Asking her directly in a perceived accusatory tone about the depleted liquor cabinet will probably result in a denial and a complete shut-down of conversation.
Instead, easing into the discussion first with positive affirmations that you care, love and worry about her will show that you are a concerned parent who wants to be involved in her life. However, letting this subject slide, especially at her age, could have dire life-long consequences for your daughter with the potential of legal ramifications if she is caught drinking and driving, is charged with consuming alcohol while a minor or contributing to the delinquency of other minors. So a conversation must occur.
Since your daughter is a minor and I presume still living with you, a large dose of “tough love” is now necessary. Does she have a much-needed curfew? What are the parameters for her staying in the house alone especially after school when you are possibly still at work? Do you know her friends? Where do they go for entertainment and what are they doing? Finding the source of who is influencing her to drink is important since other teenagers might be headed down the same destructive path due to this person and contributing to the delinquency of other minors, not just your daughter.
Next, it is important to talk with her school counselor or school intervention specialist about both her perceived alcohol usage and declining grades. An intervention specialist is a mental-health professional trained in substance abuse and other teenage behavioral issues who works directly with at-risk students within a school district. Big Walnut Schools has my friend, Joey Thompson, as their intervention specialist, while other local districts have their own. Asking that your daughter be randomly tested at school for alcohol or other substances is necessary to ensure sobriety, or using an “at-home” test yourself is a secondary option. If usage is discovered, an intensive outpatient or possible in-patient treatment at an adolescent-specific facility for drug and alcohol abuse would be the next step.
Taking preventative and supportive steps, such as removing all alcohol from your home and limiting your own alcohol usage are essential. If your daughter is an adolescent alcohol abuser, it is not just “her problem,” it is impactful to the entire family unit, which merits counseling for everyone in the home. Should this not be financially feasible, please attend Al-Anon meetings, find a church that offers low-cost counseling, or apply for mental health services through your local county. Several Delaware and Morrow County agencies receive funding through the Delaware-Morrow County Mental Health Recovery Service Board for the purpose of assisting area residents with economical counseling services.
Addressing this problem early in your daughter’s life will allow her to avoid such a downward spiral and a potential of near-lifetime consequences for her early misguided choices.
Mariann Main is a licensed counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Saturdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, visit delgazette.com/life-questions-with-local-answers or send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.