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How To Search A Teen's Room

First of all, I hope you never need this information, but if you are reading this… you might think you do.

I know this is going raise some eyebrows. After being an educator for 17 years, a father of 2 teenagers, and the director of a Drug, Alcohol, and Self-Mutilation Treatment Center, I was prompted to write this to answer questions about this very touchy subject. If you are dealing with this subject, call us. I can help! 

Have you ever felt the sting of having your room searched?

The last thing we want for our children is to experience the violation of privacy that comes with having their personal belongings searched. However, as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our kids have safe childhood and teen years.

If the time comes that you feel misled and you need find out what your kids are really up to, a thorough search may be necessary!

Sometimes we have to choose whether we are going to be the good guy or the “bad guy”. In parenting, unlike movies, “bad guys” can save lives!

Most importantly… Do not apologize. We apologize when we do things wrong, not when we are trying to protect our kids.

When should you search your kid’s room?

This is actually pretty simple. Trust your instincts. You must search the room if you suspect:

  1. Drugs/alcohol

  2. Abuse

  3. Violent behavior

  4. Overly sexualized behavior (which in turn is a sign/symptom of #’s 1 and 2)

Stop there! If you are concerned that you may not know some of the signs and symptoms, contact Fire Mountain and speak with us directly. We can help!

Where do you search?

There are obvious place like:

  1. under the mattress

  2. closet

  3. drawers

  4. desk

  5. bathroom

  6. car

Then there are the not-so-obvious places:

  1. clothes pockets in dresser and closet

  2. shoes in closet

  3. jacket pockets

  4. backpack pockets

  5. jewelry or keepsake boxes

  6. pencil holders and any other container in work or dressing areas

Then there are the “How-did-my-child-think-to-hide-it-there?” places: (If they are hiding things here it means they are getting help (friends/Internet) with their secrecy and they are farther along the path of secretive behavior)

  1. false drawer and closet walls and backs (I worked with a parent who discovered a “garden” in a closet with a secret door and room underneath the staircase…they were tipped off by a high energy bill and a vent that suddenly appeared on the roof. Don’t underestimate your kids potential!)

  2. electrical sockets

  3. false bottomed cans of soda/shaving cream/cologne spray/deoderant

  4. secret pockets in the breast and sleeves of favorite jackets

  5. old mp3 players

Do not read their journal or diary unless you suspect sexual violence, severe drug use, any kind of abuse or a serious crime. This is imposing your search on their most private thoughts. Your goal is to find clues to dangerous behavior. Only when everything else has failed do you “open that book”.

Do I tell them I searched?

As a general rule, we do not want the kids to know that we have searched their room. HIDE YOUR TRACKS. It is dangerous to use the fact that you searched their room as punishment. You become the enemy who can’t be trusted when all you were trying to do is figure out the truth. This is not always the case and if you have doubts, contact us. Do not apologize. We apologize when we do things wrong, not when we are trying to protect our kids.

What am I looking for?

Depending on the suspect behavior this will vary:

Drug use

  1. glass, wood or plastic pipes, rolling papers, bongs and all of the above in a home-made version (I worked with a parent who found a pipe made out of a seashell and a straw.)

  2. plastic bags

  3. lighters and ashes

  4. new keepsake boxes

Violent behavior

  1. cleaning supplies and other chemicals, common or not in their room or the garage

  2. homemade, workable weapons

  3. bullets

  4. military and paramilitary websites bookmarked

Overly sexualized behavior

  1. websites, bookmarks, and history searches of inappropriate material for their age

  2. age-inappropriate underwear or items

  3. condoms

If you find something…

  1. Get all of your feelings out of the way before you confront your child. You must deal with this without your emotions!

  2. Be calm and level-headed when you speak to them. Speak to them in private.

  3. Do not react to the accusations of spying, sneaking or prying into their personal life.

There are two things that justify your actions:

  1. It’s your house

  2. YOU are the parent and it’s your JOB to protect your kids

  3. LISTEN to your kids. They will be mad, hurt, guilty, defensive, upset, betrayed, and many other things. Let them express it all.

  4. Get support from a friend, a counselor, a coach or an intervention specialist for yourself. Don’t go through this alone.

  5. Be creative and come up with the most natural consequence possible. This means, what happens to adults when something illegal is found in their possession? What rights do they lose? Let this experience mimic life as much as possible.

ABOVE ALL be loving and grateful that you found it and the police didn’t. Be loving and grateful that the dreaded phone call was not the way you found out what is happening in your child’s life. Be mindful that you were there age once too.

No, this is not a fun topic and as parents, we don’t want to model sneakiness, we want to trust our kids and take them at their word but if you see the signs and you have that feeling in your gut… to find out what is happening with your child when other routes of info gathering have failed… and protect them from harm… What would you be willing to do? 

You can always contact Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center at 303-443-3343 for support.

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