FAIR LAWN, NJ - Within a week, there were arrests of three juveniles with drugs, cash and paraphernalia, and police charged some of them with the intent to sell. While many parents say, 'my kid never does any of that stuff,' clearly these kids were involved, and they could be anyone's neighbors.
In late January, there were two separate cases of juveniles arrested on alleged drug distribution charges. In the case of the 13-year-old, police found Xanax and marijuana for distribution, vape pens containing liquid THC, edible marijuana and a container of urine, discovered to be clean urine from someone else. The other case involved two 17-year-olds who were arrested in a residence where drugs were found and one of the 17-year-olds was found using marijuana.
So, what's a parent to do? TAPinto asked that of psychotherapist Julia Hochstadt, LCSW, who has been working with survivors of trauma and crime for nearly 20 years in hospital-based and private practice settings.
"It's shocking but it's not shocking," Hochstadt said. "It's a myth: 'it's not happening in our neighborhood'."
"Truth is, it's not terribly common but it's not atypical either," she said.
Hochstadt said the children involved, those accused of having the drugs and possibly selling, have a number of reasons why they do what they do.
"While on some level, these kids may know selling, distributing drugs is an anti-social behavior," she said. "There is also the appeal--it makes them popular. Individuals who do these things make friends, they fit in, they're cool. They are the person others can 'score' drugs from."
The allure is there, she said. Having drugs for sale, secretly, is dangerous and frowned upon, but it makes the person selling a "badass," she said.
"None of this happens in a vacuum," she said. "Sometimes there are long-term family issues, but other times, it's a more immediate issue."
Hochstadt said there are things parents can do to make it less likely their children will become involved in dangerous or even criminal behaviors.
"I encourage people to talk in their homes," she said. "I know that sounds simple, but it works."
And that does not mean telling a child you're there to talk about anything and then walking away. "It can't be one and done," she said. "A parent needs to engage their children in regular discussions. They need to make eye contact. Kids know if their parent is being for real or not."
Hochstadt also recommends practicing. "Have the conversation alone in your car. Think about what you'll say. And know, you don't always have to know the answer," she said.
Hochstadt said, "It's ok not to be an expert in all things. It can be scary to admit as a parent, but it humanizes you and creates closeness with your child."
And this creates an opportunity.
"What if we look this up together? That's something that can continue a natural dialogue," she said.
Editor's Note: Julia Hochstadt maintains a psychotherapy practice with offices in Midland Park, NJ and in midtown Manhattan. In addition to her clinical work, Julia facilitates educational courses for medical, legal and other professional and community audiences related to interpersonal violence. She regularly testifies as an expert witness with the Manhattan, Bronx and Rockland County District Attorneys offices.