I am pregnant with my first child, and like all parents – expectant or otherwise – I worry over making the right decisions for my child and keeping him safe. What if he falls down and hits his head? I need to bumper those sharp corners. What if she is lured by the proverbial stranger with candy and is never seen again? I need to instill an overwhelming hatred of candy. What if he grows up to join a gang and murders me and my husband in our sleep during his initiation rite? Time to put locks on those bedroom doors. What if she becomes a meth addict and runs away from home to become a prostitute? I better start drug testing her as soon as she turns five.
As parents, we are tempted to try to control every aspect of our child’s lives to keep them safe. How many dads (yourself included) have you heard say, “My daughter won’t date until she’s 30!” The trouble is that we can’t control everything – no matter how hard we try. Drug testing your children has become more popular over the years, with the rise of home testing kits made readily available. It’s another one of those precautions that might seem like a good idea but, in reality, really isn’t. Here’s why:
It Causes More Harm than Good
By drug testing your child, you’re sending a big message that reads: I don’t trust you. I don’t trust you to tell me the truth. I don’t trust you to make good choices. I don’t trust you to talk to me about your problems. If your child is using drugs, and you start testing, he or she will only find ways to be more deceptive and secretive. Instead, foster open communication with your teen and create a safe environment.
If you must drug test, make sure you have an absolute and compelling reason to do so, such as a history of drug use or addiction. Don’t be sneaky about it either: Tell your kid that you plan to test (though you don’t have to name the day or time), rather than stealing hair off their hairbrush when they aren’t looking.
It’s Not Conclusive
Home drug-testing kits can be used safely and accurately, but they are not always conclusive. False positives are common. Cheats are available (using a friend’s urine to take the test, diluting it with water, and so on). Drug tests are also only accurate within a short time period, depending on the drug being used. Some drugs clear the system within 24 to 48 hours, so if you don’t test at exactly the right time, you won’t get accurate results. Some tests are also specific by drug. Therefore, if you suspect that your kid is smoking pot, but he actually using pain killers, your test won’t give you the results you need.
It Doesn’t Replace Good Parenting
Sure, drug testing might be the most conclusive way to find out for sure if your teen is using drugs. So might 24-hour surveillance. But none of that trumps good parenting. Talking to your teen and playing an active role in their lives (note: active does not equal controlling) will build a strong and trusting relationship. If you are involved in your teen’s life and have a close relationship, you can recognize the signs that your teen might be in trouble. If your child is skipping school, doing poorly in school, or acting out in other ways, these are warning signs that something might be wrong. This is impetus to talk to your child about problems, not to storm in like the police and demand information. If you suspect your child might have problems with drugs, here are some of the warning signs (http://www.adolescent-substance-abuse.com/signs-drug-use.html).
Where do you stand on drug testing? Would you submit your teen to drug tests? Why or why not?
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blogger for First in Education where she’s recently written about occupational health & safety jobs along with a piece on health information technician jobs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, traveling, and working with origami.