Q&A: My Usually Good Teen Was Caught with Drugs

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman on how to trust your teenager after he's been caught breaking the law.

Q. My 16-year-old is a good student, captain of his baseball team, and he volunteers with disabled kids. But recently he got arrested for having prescription pills that weren't his. My husband and I never saw this coming. We have a school hearing and one in family court. How can we be sure he's learned his lesson?

A. Let's remember that wonderful kids can do really bad things. So don't beat yourself up for not knowing. Lots of high-performing kids use drugs, usually either to numb anxiety or maintain energy and focus to keep up with all the obligations. So you and your husband have to ask him what his motivations were, because he won't stop until the underlying reasons are addressed. He may also need to see a good therapist.

As for the hearings, support him in a way that holds him accountable. Tell him that yes, this is really hard, but that he can be proud of himself if he takes responsibility for his actions and accepts help. Also, check his texts and Facebook page right after the hearings, because if he's blowing them off, he'll probably share that with his friends. If that's the case, you'll know you've got a bigger problem on your hands that will take all your vigilance, consistency, and ingenuity to turn around.

Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.