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13-Year-Old Was Caught With Drugs and Expelled from School

Question:

My 13-year-old son obtained marijuana while visiting his father last weekend. He took the drug to school and got caught with it, and now the school has expelled him from the district. I'm a single mother raising four boys, and I feel as if I am focusing all my attention on him alone due to the bad choices he's making. I'm at my wit’s end.

Answer:

You son's behavior has to be very concerning and frustrating to you. The first thing you should do is talk to him in order to find out what is going on. Pick a time when things are quiet and there are no distractions (this means phones off!). Let him know you are concerned about him and see if you can get any response from him about his behavior. Be calm when you approach him; if things become heated, take a time out and get back together later. 

You know your son is using drugs, but you don't know to what extent. Therefore, it would be advisable to obtain a substance abuse evaluation so that professionals can evaluate him and recommend treatment as well. 

Since your son is only 13, check with his school to find out how he can continue his education while expelled. It is likely there is an alternative school that is available to him. Also, talk with school personnel to determine the specific conditions of your son’s expulsion. Depending on the school, a student could be expelled for the remainder of the school term or until the end of the school year. Again, there should be a plan in place for how he will continue his education during his expulsion. 

You should also sit down with your son and review your house rules. Let him know what behavior you expect from him and what behaviors are unacceptable. Be very clear and let him know what the consequences will be if he does not follow the house rules. Be sure that you use consequences that will have an impact on him. For example, if he has a cell phone, computer or other electronic device, restrict his access until he begins to follow the rules. Also, be sure to provide at least four positive comments about his positive behaviors for every negative comment you make about a negative behavior. Obviously, one of your house rules should be that no drugs are allowed. A natural consequence for breaking this rule could be to get law enforcement involved. This is a tough stance to take, but there should be strong consequences for drug use. You should also have your son submit to periodic drug testing. 

Your son is only 13; therefore, you should be supervising him closely when he leaves the house to be with friends or participate in activities. You also need to make sure you know where your son is going and who he is hanging out with. He has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted, so it is important that you keep close tabs on him. 

If you would like to talk more about this issue, call the toll-free Boys Town National Hotline® at 1-800-448-3000. Crisis counselors are available 24/7, and can provide referrals in your area for substance abuse evaluation programs. You also can call your local United Way Information by dialing 211 to obtain referrals in your area. Finally, there are always great parenting tips available at www.parenting.org.

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