What to Look for as a Parent

By Dr. Robert Wallace

November 8, 2018 4 min read

DR. WALLACE: My wife and I were divorced two years ago, and she gained custody of our then-10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son.

About eight months ago, my son and some of his friends were busted for lighting a fire in a school restroom. My son was expelled for the remainder the school year.

During the summer, his mother called and asked me if my son could live with my wife and me. She wanted him separated from his delinquent friends. And because I deeply love my son, I agreed. He has been living with my wife and me ever since school started in September. He started out well, but lately he has been hanging around with some unsavory-looking guys, and his grades are below average even though he has good intelligence.

My wife suggested that my son might be doing drugs. I confronted my son with this possibility, and he said that he is drug-free. That might be true, but it is a good possibility that he is. We have searched his bedroom several times, and we haven't found any drug evidence so far.

Since my wife and I are not up on what to look for as evidence that a teen is doing drugs, we thought you could tell us what to look for. We would appreciate your help, and I'm sure other parents would also be interested in learning this information. — Concerned Father, Fort Myers, Florida

FATHER: Keeping tabs to determine if drugs are a part of a child's life is extremely important. A group called Parents Who Care has provided a list of questions that could help determine if a teen is potentially involved in drugs or alcohol. With the group's permission, I'm sharing their quiz with you and other parents who follow this column. The more "yes" answers to these questions, the greater chance that drugs are involved.


1. Find it difficult to communicate with your child?

2. Make excuses for bad behavior?

3. Blame your spouse for the problem?

4. Argue with your spouse over this child?

5. Blame the school for the problems?

6. Blame his friends for the problems?

7. Blame his friends' parents for the problems?

8. Dread coming home?

9. Avoid being with your family?

10. Find reasons to work on the weekend?

11. Feel powerless?

12. Sometimes wonder if you love him?


1. Avoid the family?

2. Disregard or break rules?

3. Receive mysterious phone calls?

4. Listen to extremely loud rock music alone?

5. Act rebellious?

6. Have friends you don't like?

7. Have friends you don't know?

8. Argue over nothing important?

9. Use bad language?

10. Sleep unusual hours or an unusual amount of the time?

11. Constantly crave sweets?

12. Act secretive?


1. Arrive late?

2. Skip classes?

3. Cheat or vandalize?

4. Have declining grades?

5. Blame teachers for problems?

6. Disrespect authority?

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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