Talking to Teens & Adolescents about Drugs & Alcohol Addiction

Talking to Teens & Adolescents about Drugs & Alcohol Addiction

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Published: February 26, 2014
Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem that no parent can afford to ignore. All teens are at risk of using drugs and alcohol. Taking a proactive stance can help reduce that risk and may also strengthen the relationship between parents and their teenage children. Discussion is at the heart of preventing any type of drug involvement. While this is a positive step for many, it can also have a negative backlash if done incorrectly. Parents need to learn how to discuss drugs and alcohol with their children to lessen the likelihood that they will use drugs.

Establish Communication

Bringing up the topic of drugs can be difficult for most parents. The pressure is there to discuss the subject in a way that does not alienate the teen, but is also effective enough to open dialogue and create trust between parent and child. When handled properly this will let their children know that they can talk with their parents about things that they might not mention otherwise and it lets them know that their opinions matter. Communication also establishes the parents’ viewpoint and argument against drug usage.
Parents should not approach the subject in an accusatory or overtly emotional manner. Instead, they should speak calmly and encourage questions and comments from their children. The key is to develop trust in a positive and open way. Talking with teens about drugs does not have to be turned into a big event. Sitting together for nightly dinner creates a casual atmosphere for discussions, as does talking during fun activities such as biking or during a weekend outing. Communication shouldn’t always be about substance abuse. Encourage teens to discuss daily concerns as well as the high points in their lives.

Get Involved in Their Lives

Parents can stay involved in their teens’ lives in a number of ways. One important way is to know exactly what their child is doing throughout the course of their day and with whom. A parent should not feel awkward or out of line by asking their teen to check in during certain times of the day to let them know what they are doing and who they are with. Some studies have shown that teens who check in are less likely to become involved in drug usage. In addition to knowing what a teen is doing, parents must also know who they are doing it with. It is important to meet and get to know their kids’ friends.

Make and Enforce Clear Rules

Parents must establish rules that clearly state they have a no-tolerance standpoint on drug use. The rules should leave teens with little confusion that their parents do not want them taking drugs or taking alcohol at any time. In two-parent households, both parents should agree on what is said, including the consequences. Sit down and discuss these rules at length with teens and encourage questions. Parents may also consider having their child sign a contract.

Be a Positive Role Model

Most kids, including teenagers, look to their parents as a guide to right and wrong. If a parent takes drugs or abuses alcohol, this increases the likelihood that their teenager will do the same. Parents should lead by example and become positive role models for their family. This means avoiding drugs and only drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. If a parent has used or taken drugs in the past, he or she should openly discuss the dangers associated with their actions, why it was wrong, and why they are stopping that behavior. Being a good role model illustrates how it is possible to live a happy life without substance abuse. In addition, it strengthens one’s position when setting rules and one’s expectations about drugs.

Talk About the Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol

Before talking to their teens about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, parents must fully understand them. To do this, parents will want to read up as much as possible about teen drug use so that they can provide educated answers during conversation. Parents should not try to shield their children from the consequences of drug or alcohol use. In addition to the risk of addiction, mental and physical health risks should also be reviewed, including the increased risk of suicide. Drug and alcohol use can impair a teen’s ability to make wise decisions, which may lead to car accidents while driving drunk. Another danger associated with substance abuse is the lowering of one’s inhibitions. A person who is intoxicated may make unwise decisions in terms of sex or may be taken advantage of. This increases the risk of pregnancy and/or sexual disease.