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home : columns : dear harriette October 23, 2020

7/15/2020 8:00:00 AM
Parent worried son's smoking pot to mask anxiety

DEAR HARRIETTE: I've noticed my son, who is home from college, is smoking marijuana quite often now that we are in quarantine. I can smell it on him. While I don't have an issue with marijuana on occasion, I am worried that this is a coping mechanism for his feelings of anxiety about the future and isolation from his friends. How do I talk to him without being accusatory? -- Too Much Pot

DEAR TOO MUCH POT: Medical professionals have indicated that the rates of drug and alcohol use and abuse are up during this period of quarantine during the pandemic. Coping with the fear and anxiety of a health crisis coupled with an economic crisis can be difficult for everyone, young and old.

It is likely that your son's excessive smoking is a coping mechanism. And you are right, he is likely to be defensive. So how can you address it? Talk to your son about how he's feeling and what he's looking forward to doing in the coming days and weeks. Rather than focusing on his smoking, get him to think about the future. What did he like to do before that was a hobby or area of interest? Encourage him to spend some time each day doing that. Invite him to take walks with you in the neighborhood and to talk about whatever is on his mind. Whenever you can engage him, be mindful not to be an inquisitor. Also, tell him stories about yourself and your dreams for the future.

When you feel that your rapport is strong, point out that you are concerned that he may be smoking too much. Suggest that he watch his consumption during this challenging time. If you have done anything in excess -- from eating too much, drinking heavily or even sleeping too much -- tell him that you are checking yourself, too, and you recommend that he do the same.

For more coping mechanisms and support for drug or alcohol abuse, go to

DEAR HARRIETTE: I've been working the same job for 30 years. Recently we switched to working online. It was a hard adjustment, but I'm getting used to it now. My issue is that I'm realizing that I am very bored with my job. I'm close to retirement age; I don't really want to retire, but I don't want to be in this job anymore. How late is too late to switch careers? Should I even bother switching careers, or should I try to retire early? -- Time To Move On

DEAR TIME TO MOVE ON: It is not too late to switch careers, but before you jump ship, do a thorough assessment of where you are and what the landscape looks like. Right now, most jobs that have the ability to work remotely are doing just that. For health and safety purposes, businesses have been forced to use the internet to stay afloat. This was not a goal for most companies, but a necessity.

Given that reality, most companies that you may consider for a job pivot may be in the same position -- now offering remote work for its employees. Know that this way of working won't last forever for all companies. As soon as there is confidence that it is safe to return to an in-person workplace, plenty of businesses will resume work in that form. You may want to wait it out a bit longer.

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