Parents of adolescents know this conversation must occur—ideally, it should occur much earlier. Every parent wants their child to abstain from using these substances. There are dangerous risks associated with adolescent substance use.
Two-way communication is key to effective speaking to a teen about drugs and alcohol. It is also essential to recognize that we cannot control every aspect of a young person’s life. Yet, with proper dialogue and accurate information, teens are better equipped to make decisions.
Tips to Speak to Your Teenager About Drugs and Alcohol
Some of the following practical tips may help you when speaking to your teen about drugs and alcohol:
Values and Rules Should be Clear
Parents can tell teens every day to be smart and make good decisions. Yet, the meaning behind these terms is entirely different for each person. One teen may interpret ‘be smart’ as not using drugs alone. In contrast, it may mean abstaining from drugs completely to another teen. Parents must set clear rules and boundaries regarding where they stand on drug and alcohol use. Set clear values and convey a message of love and concern for their wellbeing. However, make it known there are consequences when rules are broken.
Ask Open-Ended Questions and Listen Openly without Judgement
It is our responsibility as parents to impart wisdom and knowledge onto our children. We can help them avoid some of the same mistakes we made, but also help them make informed decisions and understand the consequences of choices. Ask them questions about what they know about certain drugs like alcohol and marijuana. It is very important for parents to be willing to engage in conversation and listen to their opinion. A teen who feels their point of view is valued may be more willing to engage in conversation. During the conversation, fill in the gaps with factual information.
Explore the Reasons Why Children Use Drugs or Alcohol
There are many reasons why teens choose to use drugs or alcohol. Most choices involve staying connected socially with peers. However, parents may be surprised that most teens use drugs or alcohol to manage anxiety, relieve stress, and distract from unpleasant emotions. Knowing why they are using drugs provides a window into their underlying struggles. It is important to develop insight into their behavior and address the problems that need professional support. Yet, it is quite common for teens to have a limited understanding as to why they are using these substances. An assessment from a qualified addiction professional is the best place to begin.
Parents Should Know When to Intervene
Knowing the right time to engage or intervene is critical. Parents want to encourage openness and honesty but also want to convey a clear message. Teens abusing drugs or alcohol consistently are on a path to developing lifelong addiction. Teens using recreational drugs are also a path to developing an addiction. If there are clear signs and indicators that any form of drug or alcohol use is taking place, it is time to intervene. Do not hesitate or make excuses; intervene and begin the conversation.