Last week, Centre View presented Part One of Westfield High's “Saturday Night in the Suburbs” event, during which a panel of 14 seniors discussed teen drinking. Part Two, below, deals with drugs and parties.
Panelists were Beth Seger, Jake Bartlett, Sam Thrift, Paul Grinups, Robbie Mellinger, Rachel Haney, Michelle Little, Mahati Gollamudi, Rachel Cooperstein, JooHee Lee, Meghan Ryan, Stephanie Kennaugh, Alex Vann and Laila Sanie. Moderator Seger introduced each topic and asked the questions:
Are drugs easily accessible at Westfield High, and outside school, and where do you get them?
“Yeah, [they are], if you know the right people,” said Paul. “It gets easier as you get older,” said Rachel Cooperstein. “If you look for it, you can find it,” added Paul. “It’s a choice,” said Beth. “People who offer it to you have to know that you or your friends are open to it,” said Mahati. “You have to advertise.” Said Alex: “You build a reputation, and then you’re approached.”
“It’s much easier to stay away from drugs than to do them and get them,” said Rachel Haney. “And once you do [drugs], word snowballs through the school, and then it often ends up that you’re selling them – and people are coming to you for them,” added Beth.
Robbie said some students “talk openly about it in class – even in front of their teachers.” Said Meghan: “There’s no typical stoner. You can’t tell by their appearance.” But, said Sam, “Most people who do it brag about it later – like, ‘Oh, my God, you should have seen me!’ It makes them feel like they’re more experienced in the adult world.”
“Drug dealings are usually done out of school,” said Laila. “In school, it’s done very discreetly.” Added Robbie: “Well, of course, you’re not gonna put a big sign on your locker!”
What are the current drugs of choice?
The immediate response from all the panelists was “marijuana.” Then Laila mentioned Adderall, a drug for ADHD, and the rest chimed in, in agreement. “But kids don’t know what not to combine – and then you’re gonna find your kid OD-ing [overdosing] in his room, and that’s really dangerous,” said Rachel Cooperstein.
“Adderall is huge,” said Beth. “When kids have tests coming up, they’ll use it for stress,” said Paul. “I have ADHD and have a medical prescription for [Adderall], and they’ll come up and ask me for some, and I’ll say, ‘No,’” said Meghan. “They’ll crush them up and snort them,” said Rachel Haney. “They want the most intense high they can get. It’s not the length of the high, but the intensity, so it’s really dangerous.”
What should parents do if they discover their child is doing drugs?
“Confront them,” said Robbie. “But talk to them,” said Laila. “Let them know why you’re disappointed in them and that you care about them.” Robbie said punishment, such as grounding, doesn’t work.” Instead, suggested Laila, parents should discuss it during casual, everyday situations, such as “while getting pedicures.”
“Don’t corner them,” said Rachel Haney. “If you have an intense confrontation, they won’t tell you anything. Establish lines of communication and respect.” And, advised Laila, “No random drug tests. There are lots of different ways to get around it.”
“Trust is a major thing between a parent and a child,” said Sam. “I’d be so mad if my parents didn’t believe I wasn’t doing drugs.”
“A good place to talk to your parents is in the car,” said Beth. “I can talk to my mom there because there’s no direct eye contact and you can’t get out of the car.”
What about parties and clubbing? Is it common to have parties when parents are away?
Everyone answered a resounding, “Yes,” in unison. Jake also warned that “it’s difficult to just have a few friends over. Word gets around and it becomes an open house – and no one cares about your house.” Said Rachel Haney: “Tell your child, ‘If you want to be used, go ahead, but they won’t show you or your house respect.’ And if the cops come, they’ll book [flee and leave you holding the bag].”
Do some parents permit drinking in their house?
Robbie said yes, but warned that “it can get really out of hand if parents aren’t home.” Paul said teens will drink less if parents are home. But, said JooHee, teen-agers “could cross that line [of drinking too much] anywhere else.” Laila said some parents think “if drinking’s done under their roof, it’s OK.”
“It depends on where you set the boundary with your kids and how much you trust them,” said Mahati. “Because you don’t know what other parents’ boundaries are.” Sam said she’s heard of some teens planning their “escape routes” before a party, in case the police are called.
“And you should tell your kid, ‘If you feel like something bad is gonna happen, call me,’” said Mahati. “And then they won’t be there when the cops come. They should get one free pass.”
Do kids go to hookah bars?
When several parents in the audience asked what a hookah is, the panelists described it as “distilled, tobacco water – usually flavored – that you blow through a pipe. It’s legal if you’re 18.” Said Robbie: “It’s way less toxic than cigarettes,” and Meghan agreed. However, warned JooHee, “A friend of mine did it and couldn’t play her [musical] instrument as well, the next day.”
“Some places don’t card you,” said Sam. “They stamp your hand to ID you as not being able to smoke – but you rub it off and then the guy refilling everyone’s pipes will refill yours, too.” But, said Laila, “It just gets you high for three minutes, and that’s it.”
What about communication? Is it common for students to lie to their parents about where they’re going and what they’re doing?
Both Jake and Robbie answered, “Yes.” Meghan said what’s important is trust: “If you’ve established it [with your parents], they’ll know it would hurt you if you lied to them.” Added Rachel Haney: “If your kids see you as ultra-controlling, they’re not going to want to tell you the truth. But if you like your parents and care about them like friends, you won’t want to lie to them.”
“Your kids have to know that you’ve got their back [and vice versa],” said Mahati. “My dad always asks where I’m going and what I’m doing,” said Alex. “A trusting relationship comes over time,” said Beth. “As we grow up, it develops.” Said JooHee: “If you give a little trust, you’ll get a little trust.”
What’s the most effective way of monitoring your kids’ activities?
“Know their friends,” replied JooHee. “But don’t be too controlling,” said Alex. Or overly chummy, added Sam. “Shockingly, we do like you to be interested in our lives,” said Beth. “But other aspects of your kids’ lives will tell you about them,” said Rachel Haney. “For example, if they always want to be alone and away from the family.”
Next, parents were able to ask questions of the panelists.
Can you talk about sleeping out?” asked a mom.
The students said it happens all the time. But, advised Beth, “Know where [your kids] will be and with whom.” Said Meghan: “The most effective thing is to have your child call you from where they are.”
What about coed sleepovers?
“They’re mainly during homecoming and proms,” said Mahati. “But kids won’t be sleeping – not in that sense.” Added Laila: “They’ll be playing pool or video games or watching movies.”
What about dating and sexual activities?
“Don’t be mad at your child, because it happens earlier than you think,” said Beth. “But it depends on the morals and values you’ve instilled in them,” said Laila. “And they’ll follow them.” Said Paul: “No, they won’t.” Added Beth: “It’s a personal choice.” Meg said it depends on “who your kids hang out with.” And, said Michelle, “If your kid knows they’re not gonna do something, they’re not gonna do it.”
How do parents get kids to listen to them and not lie, if we shouldn’t ground them?
“My dad lets me know the consequences in advance,” said Alex. “For example, he’ll put a photo of a crashed car on the refrigerator.” Both Rachel Haney and Sam said the worst punishment they ever got was knowing that their parents were disappointed in them.
“You’re the parent,” said Meghan. “You can put your foot down and say no.” Said Beth: “Once you get in trouble for something, your parents will know you do [that particular activity], and you’ll act differently next time.” Added Paul: “When you get caught, then you’ll be more open about it with them.”
Are [crystal] meth and ecstasy big here?
The panelists all answered, “No.” Laila said they’re used mainly at parties, but Robbie said, “And not even [then].”
Do sports and activities help [keep teens out of trouble]?
The panelists all answered affirmatively. “I have volleyball tournaments all weekend and don’t have time for parties,” said Rachel Haney. “If your kids are more involved in school activities and other activities, they won’t have as much time to get into trouble,” said Meghan.
In conclusion, said Westfield Assistant Principal Holly Messinger: “We’ve learned that parents should talk to their children and have real conversations. It’s also important to set limits and be sure your children know them in advance.”