Pay attention, parents. There's a fairly significant chance your teenager is either drinking alcohol or smoking pot--or both.
And most parents are clueless, according to the latest C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health from the University of Michigan.
Only 10 percent of parents believe their own teenage children have consumed alcohol in the previous year, while a paltry 5 percent think their teen has smoked pot. Parents must not think so well of their children's friends, however, since they believe that 40 percent of all teens smoke pot and 60 percent drink alcohol--just not their kid.
Parents are woefully na´ve.
According to the Michigan survey, 52 percent of 10th graders reported drinking alcohol in the last year, and 28 percent of 10th graders reported using marijuana in the last year.
"There's a clear mismatch between what parents are reporting in terms of their children's possible use of substances and what teenagers report themselves," says Dr. Bernard Biermann, an assistant professor of psychiatry and the medical director of the Child/Adolescent Inpatient Unit at the University of Michigan.
These mismatched perceptions indicate a need for awareness and communication about teenage substance use.
"Awareness is a means of opening the door to communication. If parents acknowledge the possibility--and in fact, the likelihood--that their child may have experimented with or used alcohol or marijuana, they can begin to talk to them more about it, provide some guidance and allow their kids to ask questions."
What can parents do about teen substance use? Biermann offers these suggestions:
1. Talk to your teenager about substance use in a non-threatening way.
2. Carefully monitor teens when they come home by looking for signs of substance use.
3. Try not to overreact to a single instance of substance use. Instead, use the opportunity to talk to your teen in a non-judgmental way and be available as a resource for resisting peer pressure.
4. Talk with your teen's friends and talk with other parents. Sometimes others will share information that your own child won't.
5. Read information from resources such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to become educated about common signs and symptoms of substance abuse.
--From the Editors at Netscape