General Advice about Teens & Drugs & Alcohol

Parent Q&A

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  • I'm wondering how people have handled high school kids getting fake id. I find myself in the horns of a dilemma because, for no reason, I looked in my son's wallet and saw that he had a fake id tucked in behind his driver's license. My partner and i have been discussing how to handle this (and he checked computer browser history and found a series of searches for things related and a big cash withdrawal from his bank account which normally barely gets touched), and he decided to basically offer amnesty and not accuse our son directly or make him feel the need to lie. He told him all the reasons we were upset about hearing word that lots of kids have fake id's and that if he had one he could give it over to us, no questions asked, but that if we found out from others that he had one, we were taking his real driver's license, not giving him access to our cars, and taking him off insurance. Total backfire in that the son has not given them to us and is basically calling our bluff. Part of the dilemma is the privacy issue of looking in his wallet, the browser etc, but I am of the mind that he's in our household and unless it is a private journal, things like a wallet are fair game. I assume that just about all high school seniors with the means are doing this, it's so easy to get them online and with cash (and apparently, they often send 2 for the price so that if one gets confiscated there's a backup) but I'm hesitant to bring it up with his friends parents for fear that it gets back to my son that I was stirring things up. Any thoughts about this?

    My parents found my fake ID when I was a senior and just took it. When I looked in my hiding spot and saw it was gone I knew I was busted. I did not think "oh, my parents invaded my privacy" I thought... "uh oh... I'm in so much trouble." I walked around with my tail between my legs for a few days while they let me suffer without saying a word. Then I was grounded from using the car for a while and from going out with my friends. I could only go to and from school and work. 2 things were accomplished... I realized I was still being parented at the age of 17 which is a good thing. And then I got better at hiding my illicit materials. Of course this was the 1980's... but its also the kind of parent I am now in the 2000's. 

    Oh Boy. I remember those days. Meaning- I remember when I had my own fake ID.

    How you handle it really depends on your kid. You mentioned that he's calling your bluff, which to me means you need to follow through on your threats. Privacy is not an issue when he's living in your house, and it's hard because at this age our kids are making their own decisions in a lot of ways. You didn't mention his age. One thing for him to think about is if he's 17 and he's caught, say on a Friday night, he could go to Juvenile Hall, and they don't need to let you see your son. He could be there all weekend without access to a lawyer or you. If he's 18 then he can be arrested and booked, and it will be on his record. Ultimately if he's drinking and driving (or with someone else who is) they are a threat to their community. These are things I wish my parents had spoken with me about. I would also be concerned about the large cash withdrawal. How is he doing overall? Does he have goals? Stay focused? Get good grades? Challenge himself? A fake ID with a respectful and hardworking kid is one thing; failing and dropping out is another. I would look at the big picture and have an honest discussion with your son. He is, or is soon to be, an adult. Best of Luck.

    I'd leave it alone. Your son is a high school senior; he is probably only going to be around for a few more months before leaving for college, and if you confiscate his fake ID he'll just get another one (and do a better job of hiding it from you, especially since you will have demonstrated how little you respect his privacy). If you take his drivers' license you are potentially putting him in danger should a situation arise in which his operating a car means not riding with a drunk driver, or dealing with a life-threatening situation. If you don't want him operating your family vehicles then deny his access and take him off your insurance, but consider attaching that consequence to a situation in which he is driving under the influence or otherwise operating the car in an unsafe or illegal manner. Having a fake ID doesn't mean he is using the car in a dangerous way and I'm not sure what is to be gained by treating this as a cause/ effect situation.

    Also consider the number of venues that are over-21 because they serve alcohol, but that offer shows that are not age-specific. Perhaps your son simply wants access to concerts or shows that would otherwise be unavailable to him. And while it is, of course, more likely that he got the fake ID so he could drink, examine your feelings about this - do you not want him to drink because it is illegal, or for other reasons? (Personally, I find it bizarre that we allow teens to drive at 16 but not drink until 21; this seems really backwards to me.)

    Our (19 year old) daughter's best friend is coming to visit from France over winter break. They do not have a minimum drinking age, though one must be 18 to purchase alcohol. I've told my daughter to remind her friend that she won't be legal to drink while visiting us. It strikes me as absurd that my daughter and her friend are seen as responsible enough to drink in the friend's country, but not here. I would certainly understand if they decided to get fake IDs, and I definitely won't be asking questions about it.

    Finally, you didn't ask but I must say that I am always puzzled by the parents who have invaded their children's privacy, learned something they didn't want to know, and then don't know what to do about it. I say this because you first acknowledge that you were snooping, then by the end of your query suggest that anything other than a journal is fair game. I would suggest that you need to lay out some clear parameters about privacy in your household.

    I have to admit I chuckled a little reading your post, because our kids sure know how to keep us honest. A friend said to me once, "being a parent is all about eating crow." This is a good example, and I totally empathize. We have to be smart and honest and on our game all the damn time, and one off day, we are left holding all the crow.

    So, your son called your bluff, and left you in a tough position. I am of the thinking that you have to be direct and honest. It seems to me that you should talk to him directly about the fake ID, telling him your concerns and asking for an explanation, and in order to do so, you are going to have to eat some crow. If you believe that looking in his wallet is part of your right as a parent, then you have be straight with him about that. "I looked in your wallet and saw your fake ID." And expect blow back, as--if he is like my teen--he will be incensed and argumentative. Stick with your guns: if you believe that taking care of him means knowing what he is doing, hold that line. Yes, it sucks feeling like you have no privacy, but that's how it goes while he is in your care (as you suggested in your post).

    I don't think you should talk with his friends' parents, I think you should talk to him. You want him to be honest and direct, you have to be too. You said your partner did not want your son to have to lie, so you decided to lie to him. Down that road is only more deceit, or confusion, or mistrust, or misunderstanding, or other things that lead not to resolution and trust.

    Talking to him now about the ID also means admitting you lied ("we knew you had a fake ID and were dishonest about it, hoping you would confess. That was a mistake" ... good lesson for him, parents make mistakes) and dealing with your threat (whether you really want to take his license and revoke his insurance).

    I don't know what the appropriate response or consequence will be, but I don't think you can figure that out until you talk with him openly. Maybe you give a big consequence like revoking the license, maybe you take it away for a limited time with some conditions, maybe you call amnesty since you all were deceitful too. You will know better once you talk with him. One thing that sometimes works in our house: ask him what he thinks the consequence should be. It is surprising how often teens come up with a good one, rather than just letting themselves off the hook, as you might expect.

    Just talk to him about the whole thing. Then go back to reading BPN so you can feel good about the other bullets you've dodged.

    -- Your compatriot in the mine field

    I feel for you because this is not any easy issue for any parent, and I can't say I have an answer for you. You didn't say how old he is, and if he's under 18 years old.  Last summer I was able to read my 18 yr old daughter's (HS graduate) text messages through an iPad that has the text app that shows everything that she is texting on her phone. Lots of party planning and seems that she and many of her friends had fake IDs. I don't know if they are using it to purchase alcohol or just to go to bars.  Regarding confronting him about finding it, guess it depends on your parental philosophy. You don't have to say you looked in the wallet, and if he is under 18 and you would normally have access to the bank statement, you could inquire what the money was spent on. I have no special insight, but I think that especially for older teens, if you confront them and threaten action, the result is a break down of communication and they will lie to do what they can to get away and it drives you apart.  That was my own experience as a risk taking teen 40 years ago with my own parents.  I never confronted my daughter specifically about the fake ID or other things I read about on the text messages.  Instead every time she was headed out the door, I chose to have conversations about drinking, pot smoking, designated drivers, and the risks (even if you are a designated driver, if you got stopped, someone might be sick and then standing by the road when the cop pulls over to find out if everything is ok), , her personal responsibility, and the possible outcomes of making stupid decisions that would affect her future. Of course, if something actually happened, there would be consequences, both natural and imposed.  Also, when my daughter was still applying to colleges and wanted to go to some senior parties, I did mention the risk of colleges withdrawing their acceptances if she were arrested for underage drinking.  At least if the communication is open, I can get a better sense of how good her judgement is, and while I would prefer there was no alcohol or use of fake IDs, at least she is somewhat open.  Regarding other parents, maybe you could have a conversation as a theoretical of "I have heard some kids are doing this" to see what they say. Good luck.

    I would confront him about it, as well as tell your parent friends. I strongly respect teen privacy, and faced a difficult decision about searchin my son's room (16 at the time),  and to let him know that I did it and why. With fake IDs, teens don't realize how much trouble they can get into. Sure, not everyone get's caught, but many do, and the penalties are stiff. Check this site:

    In a nutshell, possibilities include stiff fines, community service, drivers license suspension if there is a car involved and any license is consumed (a major insurance headache in addition to the suspension). And if you use, or even intend to use the ID, there are potential felony charges: 

    I don't think many teens understand this, and I think this is a time when attempting to set limits outweighs privacy. 

    Good luck with your decision.

    Well, you made the threat (and good for you), now you have to carry through with it.  Call his bluff right back, and take away the fake ID, the drivers license and the car.  Fake IDs are illegal for a reason.  He won't be happy about it, but as long as he lives in your house and on your dime, you have the right and responsibility to monitor his activities and possessions, especially illegal ones.

    I can't remember exactly why we did what we did when we found our now 20yo had a fake id, when he was a senior, but we did not take it away. Or actually I think I took it and then later gave it back. I'm kind of surprised at myself but it's worked out fine. I guess I thought it wouldn't work as an id, that he wouldn't be able to drink with it but it turned out that he did use it a few times. He told us about using it, to go to a club somewhere and to buy beer to celebrate a sports win. Anyway he's been a responsible kid who doesn't drink much or get into trouble. I have the kind of relationship where I would just say hey I saw you have a fake id, what are you going to use it for? He would get mad about the spying and I would say well but you did something you weren't supposed to do and here's a big lecture about drinking and driving, and drinking and sex, and why drinking is bad. I'm sure I'm wrong and you should take it away and ground them and so on but I didn't and he'll be 21 soon, knock wood so far so good. So just writing to say that raising teens is a lot of guesswork and luck, but staying connected seems to have worked well. Good luck, you should probably take it away...

    ???? It is a criminal act, so yeah, I'd take away his real license AND car privileges AND allowance AND tell his friends' parents to check their kids' wallets and browsers too! No debate, and if my husband had a different idea about how to handle it, and implemented his way without talking to me first, then I'd have a problem with him TOO!  Look up what the fine is for having a fake ID, charge him that out of his savings, and then whatever the time element of the criminal penalty is, implement that at home with grounding/no allowance/whatever for that period of time.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

General Questions about Drugs & Alcohol  

Identifying Drugs I found in son's backpack

April 2013

I found two types of pills in my teen's (16 y/o male) backpack. One is in pill form, the other plain, unmarked capsule) Is there anyway to find out what these are Obviously Concerned start with the internet before you ask

Your best bet is to take the pills to a pharmacist. They may be able to identify them. Also - any time we've had experiences where we would even question a little bit, we have used the drug testing kit that you can purchase at the pharmacy. Buy the one that tests for more drugs. It did pick up my son's prescription amphetamines, so they work. Good luck!

Try Good luck, I know how scary this stuff can be. -been there

Take them to a druggist and ask for an id. Michael

Drugs and alcohol at teen parties

Oct 2011

Drugs and alcohol seem to be in wide spread use at teen parties in Albany. My daughter and I have an agreement that she will tell me when they will be used at parties she is asking to go to. I've recently discovered 2 things - some parents are actually joining the teens in drinking alcohol (doing shots with them) and also that often parents are leaving town for the weekend and leaving their teen sons or daughters alone. Wild parties with lots of drunken and drugged behavior ensue. I'm not naive - been there myself. Here is the question: a) should I betray my daughters confidence (hard won) by contacting the parents of these kids to let them know whats going on? I have spoken to the mother who does shots, and she sees things very differently than I do! or b) call the cops anonymously knowing that my daughter may get in trouble? or c) Do nothing other than continue having conversations with my daughter about the ill effects of these substances on the teen age brain. I'm open to suggestions. Of course, I am concerned about the overall well fare of all of these teenagers. Not just their health, but their safety - many are driving away from these parties. So sad and scary that this is going on. concerned mom

Call the cops - the parents are the ones who are going to get in trouble, and rightfully so. Furnishing alcohol to minors is illegal. Additionally, the law on potential liability for allowing people to leave your home and get in a car and drive when you reasonably should know they are impaired and unable to drive safely is continuing to evolve. Calling the cops seems like a very reasonable and foreseeable consequence to these parents' extremely irresponsible decisions. Call it like I see it

You said you ''have an agreement that she will tell me when they will be used [drugs/alcohol] at parties she is asking to go to.'' Was curious if you allow her to go to parties even after she tells you there will be drugs/alcohol there - I would not. For me, it has been better to send a clear msg of no drugs/alcohol and no to parties without responsible parents present, even knowing teens will be teens and my kids may break my rules. Other approaches always seem like a slippery slope. As a former very naughty teenager myself, I think parents need a strict line to try to keep a lid on things, knowing full well your kids are going a bit above that line. I would definitely not allow your kid to ever return to the house where the parent is taking shots with the kids. Calling the cops on that parent is not what I would do, but I would share that info with the parents of my kid's friends. It's a tough few years to navigate

Option B 100% , in my opinion. Your daughter won't know it's you who called and it would be a huge reality check for the kids and parents. Who cares if someone-adult or child-gets in trouble, it's better then having someone die from alcohol over consumption or car accident or having someone get raped. You'd feel more awlful knowing these things were happening and then someone getting hurt or killed and basically being the holder of such a secret is just enabling and colluding with the whole set up. It's okay to be the grown up and assert your authority! Anon

Definitely talk to your daughter. But I think you have to expand the conversation beyond the teen brain. I suggest you talk about some of the miserable consequences of drinking, such as date rape and alcohol poisoning. In addition you have to talk about positive aspects of drinking. Like how it makes people feel good and makes conversation easier. This will increase your credibility. If you only talk about the negative things, your teenager will not really believe you, because, if alcohol is so awful, why is everyone drinking? It makes no sense. I don't know if calling the police is a good idea. But it seems to me that if we all did that, our teenagers would be a lot safer. Anon

Financial reward for drug prevention?

Oct 2011

I am wondering about techniques parents are using to help shore up your child against the temptation/curiosity about drug and/or alcohol use. Now that my children are both teens, I would like to provide as much incentive for healthy choices as possible. We already talk about the risks of drug and alcohol use, but I know peer pressure, and curiosity can be strong pulls. Value judgments about drugs aside, using substances as teens is too early, with their body and brain not fully developed. I had a thought to offer them a financial incentive for staying clean. The idea is every year of high school that they do not use, they get a large sum of money to use for fun activities in college. Feedback? Suggestions? trying to keep them drug free!

I am wondering how you will know that they are holding up their end of the bargain? Most teenagers outright lie to their parents about sex and drugs....even the 'good' ones who know the rules. skeptic

I think a financial reward might work, but don't make them wait four years. That is tantamount to saying you want them to use the money to buy booze in college. How about you add a small sum to their weekly allowance if they stay clean and sober? I think a quick reward would be better. Although they may just work even harder to hide their drinking.

But really, what you say and do is far more important. If you are telling them all these miserable things about alcohol while you continue to drink, they will lose trust in you and want to experiment. You don't have to quit drinking. But you do have to be honest about the positives of drinking. Talk about the pros and cons and then explain why you want them to wait and what you expect of them when they go to college. Talk to them about how they can handle themselves when they get into uncomfortable situations. Ask them for their opinion so you can have a discussion. Don't just talk. Listen, too. And praise them often. Sanon

My son is a sophomore in high school, just turned 16 and has not tried drugs or alcohol even though he is in a school (Campolindo High School) where both (and prescription drug abuse) are rampant. I reward him handsomely with money and a car. I bought him a truck which comes with clear expectations, which means zero drugs! You can enforce it by buying a kit and having him randomly tested. We have not done it, as my son loves money and just does not want to do drugs, but pretty soon we are going to test him just to keep him on his toes. I also reward him randomly and often thank him for making good choices. For example, on 4/20, when lots of kids went to school high, I waived a $200 IOU and wrote him a card that said ''happy 4/20 day'' which he thought was pretty funny. It might seem that I am bribing him, but we have always openly talked about drugs and trusted him to make good choices. I grew up near Amsterdam but never touched any drugs, in fact I am petrified of them, which my son thinks is funny. I would say, include your child in the discussion. Ask them if they would consider a sum of money in exchange for a ''no drug contract.'' Making them part of the decision making process might sometimes work better. Good luck. Mom of high schooler

14-year-old is experimenting with alcohol & marijuana

May 2011

My son is fourteen and starting up a pattern of experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, sex, and lying about all of the above. His Dad and I are divorced but live in close proximity to one another, and we are currently adjusting our parenting behaviors as rapidly as we can to try to modify our son's behavior before he gets into significant trouble of some kind. We did have a therapist for our son, but according to the boy, the therapist was not helpful, too oriented toward passive listening and not enough intervention. That's how I understood his objections, at least. So a male therapist with experience in teen drug and alcohol abuse and of a more ''hands-on'' persuasion would be good if you have any suggestions. And any suggestions about parenting as a divorced couple in the teenage years would also be very welcome. getting to the end of my rope

Your son is doing pretty normal things for 14. Help him to feel that way. I would focus instead of trying to prevent ''experimentation'' from happening, to help him make smart choices. For instance if he is thinking about having sex: USE A CONDOM! Buy some condoms and leave them in the bathroom for him, or hand him a bag of them. He HAS to learn how to use them, so if you, mom, don't feel comfortable explaining it, then ask his father to. Or just do the old banana trick and allow him to be embarrassed! Drugs & Alcohol: talk to him about moderation. That's all you can really do and it's more helpful to him than if you say ''don't do it!''. Talk about body weight and types of alcohol (sticking with beer is better). The illegality of it at his age and what are the possible outcomes of getting caught. You are trying to keep him safe. I never allowed my daughter to smoke or drink in the house, so she had to do all that elsewhere. I didn't want to blur the edges of my authority. On the one hand, ''No I don't want you to do this and I'm not going to allow it in my house, but I know you are, so please be safe doing it'' sounds like a bundle of contradictions, but isn't parenting??

If you can talk about things then he won't much...if you can remain as non-judgemental as possible he will talk more. Tell him you love him and care about him.

As far as a therapist, maybe someone who is calling themselves a ''cognitive behavioralist'' because they really work with finding practical ways of dealing with things, instead of the soul-searching, Freudian stuff that makes most teens so uncomfortable! Contact your insurance provider for a list of therapists who do this. Good luck. anon

I heartily recommend Andrew Pojman, Ed.D. at Oasis Center in Walnut Creek. He's a big, no-nonsense, gentle former football player, a sensitive therapist with a special gift for working with boys. His phone number is 925-944-1800. susan