One of the hardest parts about being a parent of a teenager is the fine balance between setting rules for your child but also having an open relationship where your teen can come to you if they are dealing with grown up issues such as drugs. Having “the talk” about drug and alcohol abuse can be a little awkward but very necessary for you and your child. A new report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 75% of all high school students have used alcohol, tobacco or other drugs and that 20% of these adolescents are addicted. Here are a few ways to have a discussion with your teen about drug use.
Use The News As A Starting Point
With the constant influx of horror stories about car crashes related to drunk driving or instances of alcohol poisoning on college campuses making the news cycle, use these stories as a starting point in your conversation. Bring up these news stories and ask what their thoughts are on it as well as what you think too. The conversation may end up bringing you a lot closer to your child.
Create Teachable Moments
According to experts, it is best to develop an ongoing dialogue with your child (some experts recommend starting in the preschool years) about drugs. From an early age, talk to your child about the benefits of healthy living and as they get a little older talk to them about drugs and alcohol. Discuss what your feeling are about drugs and drug use and set clear family rules about what is or is not acceptable. Roxanne Kibben, vice president of the Phoenix House Foundation, recommends that parents agree to the same rules about drugs.
Spend Time Talking With Your Child
On the drive to school, during family dinner and before bedtime are all great opportunities to speak with your child about drugs and alcohol. Ask them about peer pressure, and if their friends and classmates have discussed drinking and drug use. The most important thing is to keep an open dialogue with your child going and to encourage them to ask any questions they may have about drug use.
Share Personal Stories
One of the best ways to get your child to open up is to share with them any personal stories you have of drug and alcohol use or abuse. Teenagers know that their parents are not perfect (and will remind them of this on a few occasions) so opening up to your kids if you have ever used drugs may be a way to build a strong line of communication. Depending on your child’s maturity level, it may also be an opportunity to talk to your teen about if any member of their immediate or extended family has suffered from addiction.
With many online resources at your disposal, you may find it helpful to do research on drug and alcohol abuse on teens. If you suspect your child of doing drugs it may also be helpful to read up on what the signs of teenage drug use are.
Once you approach your teen and start an ongoing conversation about drug use, it may provide for a stronger bond for you and your child.