9 Tips for Making Discussions With Teens About Drugs and Alcohol Effective

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When it comes to striking up a conversation about drugs and alcohol, many parents find themselves at a loss for words. Not only can feel the subject feel a bit awkward - or perhaps even intimidating – but many parents also fear sounding somewhat hypocritical. Here are 9 tips for making conversations with teens about drugs and alcohol effective:

1. Take a Clear Stance

Sometimes parents don’t bring up the subject of drugs or alcohol because they presume it’s not yet on their teen’s radar and they don’t want to “put ideas in their heads.” Avoiding the subject however, can be misconstrued by your teen as indifference.

If you never tell your child not to use drugs, he may assume you don’t have a strong objection to his experimentation.

Make your stance known. Tell your teen outright, “I don’t approve of underage drinking alcohol and I don’t want you to use a drugs.” Telling your teen not to use substances can be the most powerful reason he’ll choose to abstain.

2. Hold Frequent Conversations

Just the like “birds and the bees talk” shouldn’t be a single discussion, talks about drugs and alcohol should be ongoing. When you bring up the subject frequently, your teen will have more opportunities to ask questions or share concerns.

3. Use the Media to Your Advantage

There are countless commercials, print advertisements, music lyrics, and TV shows about substance use and abuse. When you see in ad for alcohol in a magazine or you hear a news story about a drug offense, mention it to your teen.

Create opportunities to educate your teen how substances are often glamorized by marketing professionals.

Also discuss the realities substance abuse shown on the news as people are involved in drug-related crime.

4. Share the Facts

Educate yourself about the major facts related to drug and alcohol use among adolescents. There are newer drugs that are tempting teens today – such as bath salts – and it’s important to be knowledgeable about what teens may be exposed to.

It’s also important to discuss the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Sometimes teens think taking a friend’s ADHD medication or buying a prescription painkiller doesn’t constitute drug abuse since these medications were prescribed by a doctor. Explain how abusing prescription drugs can be just as harmful as other drugs.

5. Discuss the Potential Consequences

Talk about all the different types of consequences that can result from substance abuse. While one teen may be deterred by potential health risks, another teen may be more concerned about that drug use would get him kicked off a sports team. Include the health risks, social problems, educational issues, and potential legal consequences, as well as warnings about how drug use affects families.

6. Be Prepared to Answer Questions

There’s a good chance your teen will ask questions, especially personal ones. Be prepared for how you’ll answer any questions about your personal drug use history. It’s best to be honest with a teen, but that doesn’t mean you need to offer graphic details.

Explaining that you made mistakes and that you want to prevent your teen from making the same ones may suffice.

7. Share How Some People Get Lured Into Substance Abuse

Discuss some of the reasons people enjoy drinking and using drugs. For example, talk about how some people drink alcohol because it helps them feel more confident or people use drugs because they think it boosts their mood.

It’s important to share why some people enjoy using substances because it will help you build credibility. If you’ve only ever told your teen, “Drugs are horrible,” and his friend says he tried smoking marijuana and it was fun, your teen will assume you’re lying or don’t know what you’re talking about. Send a message that says, “Some people enjoy using substances but those same substances can really ruin their lives.” That will help them understand why some people report positive aspects to substance abuse.

8. Ask Questions

Ask your teen questions about his thought on drugs or alcohol. Be curious, without prying. Ask him how big of a problem drugs seem to be at his school or ask how the school seems to respond when drug or alcohol-related issues arise. Asking open-ended questions can show your teen that you’re interested in hearing his opinion or concerns, as opposed to simply lecturing him about it.

9. Make Your Expectations Clear

Impose restrictions and assign extra responsibilities if you catch your teen drinking or using drugs. Make the consequences clear ahead of time. Also discuss how lying about any substance use will only further break your trust and lead to more serious consequences.

Discuss what you expect your teen to do if he goes to a party and discovers other teens are drinking or using drugs. Encourage him to call home for a ride and discuss the importance of never getting in a car with an impaired driver. These types of conversations can help your teen find safe ways to get out of a bad situation.

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