DEAR HARRIETTE: My teenage son keeps a journal, which I think is great, though I didn’t know about it. I was cleaning his room the other day when I discovered it. I admit that I took a peek. Most of the entries were benign -- just teenage angst. But one entry I read revealed that he has tried smoking marijuana. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. More, though, I am worried about him.
I don’t want my son to get hooked on smoking marijuana and stop paying attention to his schoolwork. Should I tell him that I read his journal? Is there another way to get him to talk about this? -- Son Smokes Weed
DEAR SON SMOKES WEED: Rather than informing him that you betrayed his trust, which will likely lead to less communication between the two of you, leave the issue of the journal alone and do your best to establish a solid rapport with your son. Ask him about his day and how he is managing at school. Ask him about drugs, sex and alcohol. You should do this on a regular basis -- not as an inquisition, but as a point of inquiry. Many teens experiment with all three, and you want to do your best to manage and understand your son’s engagement.
To do this, you must reinforce your family’s values about each one. Talk about sex and when you believe it is appropriate for people to engage in it. Talk about drugs, including marijuana, but not limited to it. Ask your son if he has tried any drugs. If he admits to it, ask him how they made him feel and whether he intends to keep doing them. Express your concerns about the effects of drug use on his body and his life. Address alcohol in the same way. Be clear about your beliefs and expectations for your son, and leave the door open to conversation. Don’t be too judgmental in your delivery, or else he will likely lie.