Daughter's Email Mentions Drugs

A parent is upset upon discovering references to buying and using drugs in her daughter's email.
In emails she writes to her friends, our 17-year-old daughter talks about buying and using drugs, but she denies that she really does it and says the emails are nothing.

We feel the situation should be taken seriously.

I agree with you. This situation is serious and demands action on your part. In making your decision, you might be served by the old adage, "If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck." Your 17-year-old daughter's e-mails about buying and using drugs are about precisely that -- buying and using drugs. I don't know how you came to be able to read your daughter's e-mails -- whether you were snooping on her or casually passing by while she was writing her friends on the computer. In either case, she has sent up a red flag to you about her taking drugs.

I am not surprised that she has denied the truth of her own e-mails. Denial is usually the first response when we are caught doing something wrong. If you approach her with a willingness to understand why she is debating using drugs or has been using drugs, as opposed to coming at her with anger, blame, and shame, you will open the door to what could become honest, meaningful, vital discussions about her drug use.

I doubt that she will continue to write or give you access to any of her drug-related e-mails. If she remains firm in her stance that these e-mails mean "nothing" and you cannot penetrate this shield, I would recommend family counseling and/or individual counseling for her. If you know the parents of these e-mail friends, you also need to decide whether or not to tell them what you have seen.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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