Carroll County parents learn how to talk to teens about drugs

By day, Amy Laugelli is a substance use prevention coordinator at the Carroll County Health Department, but on Wednesday night, she played a teen whose mother had just discovered contraband among her possessions.

"What is this?" asked mom, played by the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau's Kate Swisher, who was holding up a bag of pills. "I found this while putting away your laundry."


Laugelli, in character, and in a maneuver perhaps familiar to many parents, tried to pass blame.

"Those aren't even mine; I'm just holding them for Spencer."

Exactly what to do in that situation as a parent, how to get through to their teen, get to the truth, set limits, expectations and consequences — all without slamming shut the channel of communication — was what drew seven parents to the Wednesday night workshop at the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau. The workshop, after all, was titled Teaming Up: How to Talk to your Teenager About Substance Abuse.

Roleplay is a key ingredient in working out how to talk with teens about drugs, according to Rachel Greenberg, a counselor at the bureau and the coordinator of the workshop.

"I wanted a variety of situations that were relatable and that parents might have already gone through," she said. "My favorite part was getting the parents' feedback: This is what we would say. This is what we would do differently."

Laugelli, who attended as a guest speaker at the workshop and spoke about current trends in adolescent drug use, said roleplay really gives parents a chance to think about how they will approach setting rules about substance use for their teens.

"The question that came up tonight is one I get all the time, 'If I set limits, is it going to push them to just go out and do it?'" she said. "I think that's where we can be really helpful — reminding people that it is all in the communication, giving them some tips and taking the fear out. It's a good thing to set limits. It's a good thing to talk about consequences."

This was the third such workshop the Youth Services Bureau has hosted, according to Swisher, who is the director of substance use disorder services there.

"We have always wanted to do parenting seminars, but they are not a usually part of what we do because we are treatment focused here," she said. "We offer services for people who are maybe already using or have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues."

Then, in 2016, St. Paul's United Church of Christ, in Westminster, gave the bureau a grant, Swisher said, and the idea to finally launch the parenting seminar was born. The first two, held in October and February, drew about 20 people each.

"This is the last one we wanted to do for the summer, as we figured we wouldn't get too many people before school starts again," Swisher said.

But while nothing is presently schedule, Greenberg said she plans to hold another workshop at some point in the fall and encouraged those interested to email her at

I will keep a list of who is interested and a lot of people that haven't been able to make it in the past; I will shoot them an email to kind of give them first dibs if they were not able to make it," she said. "We definitely plan to hold more."

There certainly is a need for it. In her prevention work, Laugelli said, she speaks with a lot of children and teens in health classes in public schools, but parents sometimes get left out of the loop.


"Kids hear about this stuff," she said. "We want to makes sure parents are in on the conversation."