Talking to teens about drugs, sex, dating

Paul Boerger
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Mike Pautz, standing right, led a group of parents in a wide ranging discussion on talking to teenagers about drugs, sex and dating. “I tell my kids that I can’t make the choice for you. I can just give you the information and hope you make the right choice,” Pautz said.

The second of three seminars on dealing with teenagers at the Mount Shasta Methodist Church April 16 saw Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Mike Pautz go somewhat off script while moderating a freewheeling roundtable discussion on talking with teenagers about drugs, sex and dating.

Pautz referred back to the first seminar on How to Talk to Teens often, pointing out that staying in communication with teens and involved with their lives is the key to raising successful children.

“It’s a myth that if I talk about a subject that it’s going to happen,” Pautz said. “It doesn’t work that way.”

Pautz served up a series of statistics from a nationwide 2010 survey on drug use that showed 51 percent of 8th graders, 71 percent of 10th graders and 80 percent of 12th graders had used illegal drugs within the last year. Pautz said that prescription drugs, obtained secretly from parent’s medications, was the fastest growing drug of choice for young people including Vicodin, Oxycodone, Xnax, Valium and Zoloft.

“Kids are using them,” Pautz said. “How many people count their medications?”

“Not enough,” a parent responded.

Pautz said that one of the great dangers of prescription drug use is that teenagers have no idea of their effects.

“Alcohol and prescription drugs can kill you,” Pautz said.

On marijuana, Pautz said the debate on whether it is addictive will “go on forever.”

“I’m on the fence on addiction for marijuana,” Pautz said. “But we do know what it does medically.”

Pautz said among the hazards of marijuana abuse are short term memory loss and, for chronic users, isolation and withdrawal.

One parent noted that marijuana use has “significant medical effects.”

In a handout, Pautz relayed that among the signs of drug use parents should look for are impaired short term memory loss, change in health or grooming, sudden mood changes, poor judgement, low self esteem, drop in grades and truancy.

He stressed that parents need to talk to their teenagers, citing a study that showed when parents talked to their teens about drugs, 50 percent of those teens never tried drugs.

“I tell my kids that I can’t make the choice for you. I can just give you the information and hope you make the right choice,” Pautz said. “It works.”

On dating and sex, Pautz said that parents need to talk with their teens about dating violence, safe sex and how to avoid pregnancy.

“Are we going to stop them from having sex?” Pautz asked. “Probably not.”

“Delay it?” a parent called out.

“That would be the ideal,” Pautz responded.

An impromptu poll among the parents as to whether teen girls should simply be put on birth control pills received a resounding “no.” Among the parents’ concerns were sexually transmitted diseases, side effects of the pill, and that providing the pill as a matter of course is giving permission to have sex.

Although Pautz said there is no hard and fast rule on the age teens should start dating alone, the rough consensus among the group was 16.

“It depends on how much they know, their maturity and who they are dating,” Pautz said. “My biggest fear is my daughter coming home and telling me she is pregnant. I don’t think it will happen because I’ve been talking to them about it since kindergarten.”

Other wide ranging topics included creating parent networks to know what your teen is doing and to let other parents know what theirs is up to, letting teens know you will be checking them for drug use and when to talk to teens when they just don’t want to communicate.

Parents suggested talking to teens when you are driving because they are a captive audience, being persistent, catching them in the early morning or evening and imparting the information whether or not you get a response.

“Even though they may not say anything,” a parent offered, “they are still getting the information.”

The handout summarized Pautz’s continued advice that parents need to talk freely with their teenagers.

“Listen to your teen and allow them to express what is going on their lives,” Pautz wrote. “Always use open ended communication that is positive and free of judgements.”

The third and final series in the teenage talks takes place April 23 at 6 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Mount Shasta located at 312 Alma Street.

The series is sponsored and funded by the Mt. Shasta Community Resource Center, and presented in cooperation with the Mount Shasta High School Parents Group.