Q: My mother is a substance abuser. She smokes marijuana and takes pills. I got into trouble because my mother encouraged me to start dating at the age of twelve. What caused her to get me to date so young?

A: Your mother may have felt bad that you could not have friends to your house because of her drugging. Dating may have made your mother feel as if you belonged to a group and, in general, were accepted by society.

Q: I am a sixteen year-old girl. When my first date came to my house to pick me up, my father, who was drunk, fell down the front stairs. When we tried to help him up, he became abusive. What can girls in this situation do when their dates expect to pick them up at home?

A: When a boy takes you out for the first time and your alcoholic parent is drinking, offer to meet him elsewhere. If your alcoholic parent begins to drink a few hours before you expect your date, you can avoid the problem by phoning your date at his home to say your plans have changed, and ask him if he would mind meeting you elsewhere. It can be a girlfriend’s house, a relative’s house, or a reputable place in the center of town. Your date may ask you why he cannot come to your house. Should you feel at this point that you don’t want to confide in him, you can make up a plausible excuse, such as, I am at a girlfriend’s house because she asked me to help her baby sit for her younger sister until you come.

Those teenage girls who meet their date away from home should realize that their parents might feel worried about who their date is and where they are meeting him. Remember, even though a parent is an alcoholic, he feels responsible for you. It is understandable that you may not always like the manner in which your parent’s illness causes him to show parental concern, but concern it is. It is wise to tell your parents, or at least your sober parent, who your date is, where you are going, and why they shouldn’t worry. “We are not driving” or “He is an excellent driver” or “You know that I am very careful” are comments that may lessen their fears. You may want to leave them a written note where you can be reached and you may want to phone them during your date to put them at ease.

If your parents do have objections, however, you must think them over carefully. Let your parents feel that you want them to meet your date. You might say, As soon as you stop drinking, I’ll bring him home. Such comments may motivate your parent to stop drinking. Whatever you do, do not use the fact that you are meeting your dates on the outside as a weapon to criticize your parents. You can make your parents aware that the reason you don’t bring friends home is not because you are not proud of your parents, but because alcoholism is a disease that does not show them in their true light.

Q: Both my parents are substance abusers. I am dating a girl I really like. I am afraid if I tell her my parents do drugs, she may lose interest in me. Should I keep dating her without telling her about my parents?

A: It is not necessary to tell a girl you take out the first or second time about your problems at home. But if you are going steady, exchanging intimate information is part of being close to each other.

Her real worry will be if you will copy your parents and also do drugs. However, if you explain to her that you do not want to touch drugs and alcohol, and show by your action by not even having a beer she will have confidence in your relationship.

One teenager told how he was very shy about telling his new girlfriend about his parents’ drugging. When he finally started to tell her, she interrupted him. Instead, she poured her heart out about how her parents, who do not do drugs and only drink socially, either fight or do not talk at all to each other and were on the verge of divorce. Her problem had nothing to do with drugs but seemed just as hard to her. She was glad to have a boyfriend who could understand her. Being an understanding person and knowing how to explain your life at home will help you when dating.