When it comes to talking to teens about drugs and alcohol, many parents don’t know where to begin. Every child is unique, so there is no one correct way to talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol. However, here are 5 tips you should follow to help the conversation stay positive and be productive.
1. Be prepared.
You don’t want to bring up the subject of drug abuse and addiction, and then not be able to answer any questions your teen has. To prepare for a conversation with your teen about substance abuse, it is necessary to educate yourself about the subject.
Learn what drugs are available, street names, trends and the effects of each drug – short term and long term. The drugs that were available when you were a teenager are not the same drugs being used or abused by teens today.
You should also be ready for questions about your own drug use as a teen and young adult. Your teen is likely to be curious; she will no doubt ask if you have ever used drugs. How you handle this question, if you have used drugs, is up to you. While it is important that you are truthful with him, there are some things that should be kept private, or at least a part of a different conversation you can have later.
2. Ask questions.
Find out what your teen knows about drug and alcohol abuse. According to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, about half of high school students say they have at least one friend who uses illegal drugs like acid, ecstasy, meth, cocaine, or heroin.
Does your teen have a friend that is using illicit drugs? How well do you know your teen’s friends? Talk to her about her friends. Sometimes teens have a friend who is abusing drugs and they want to help. Encourage her to talk about her friend and her feelings about what is happening. There is a very good chance that your teen has been offered drugs on at least one occasion. Talk to your her about how she handled a situation in which she was offered drugs.
Questions you may want to ask your teen:
• What kind of drugs are kids at her school using?
• Does she have friends that are using or abusing drugs?
• Does she know anyone who drinks? Do they drink at school?
• Has she ever been to a party where there was alcohol or drugs being used?
Take it easy, though. You don’t want her to feel like she’s being interrogated.
3. Brace yourself.
Hopefully you don’t have to hear your teen confess to drinking or using drugs. If your teen does confide in you about experimenting with drugs or alcohol, it’s so important that you stay calm. Yelling, lecturing or otherwise freaking out will not only end the conversation, it will put a wedge in your relationship with your teen. If your teen trusts you enough to talk to you about something like this, it really is a good thing. How you handle your teen’s confession is going to make all the difference in the world when it comes to honest, open communication between the two of you.
However, you should bring up the subject of consequences. Ask if there were any consequences for her actions. Talk about real life consequences such as financial, legal, and relationship trouble. Remind her that drug abuse can lead to drug addiction, and that drug addicts struggle with every aspect of their lives, oftentimes ending up broke, alone and in prison.
Do the best you can to listen, without interrupting. Teens will sometimes veer off topic, talking about school, stress, and friends. These are the important things that make up their lives. These are also the things that can lead to drug abuse. Let your teen express herself and talk to you about what is important to her.
Do not offer advice unless you are asked for it. Teenagers sometimes hear advice as lecturing or telling them what to do. Listen, encourage her, and let her know that you’re always going to be there for her.
You should have conversations like this often. It will help the two of you to build a strong relationship.
5. Be truthful.
Scare tactics claiming that marijuana use is the gateway to heroin addiction or that using cocaine once causes instant addiction do not work.
The truth is, addiction is a brain disease that can happen to anyone. There is no way of knowing if you are susceptible to addiction before using drugs. You only know once you are addicted and it’s too late.
Drug and alcohol addiction can be prevented.
Jennifer Foster, Ed. D. is a career educator, author and speaker, She lost a family member to drug abuse and is now determined to educate parents on the horrors of teen drug abuse.