How to Talk About Substance Abuse with Teens
Many parents may shy away from talking about substance abuse with teens. The situation is uncomfortable but often necessary. Great conversations involve:
- Open communication to express concerns and gather information about your teen’s perspective
- Encouragement to show that you believe in them, which will help build trust and confidence
- Negotiation that offers parents and teens a way to join forces towards a common goal and find solutions that benefit everyone
- Limits that make rules, expectations, and consequences clear, so your teen can increase self-control and responsibility for their actions
When you talk to a teen about substance abuse is nearly as important as how you talk to them. Focus on prevention by speaking early and often on the subject, instead of waiting until the problem is firmly established. Conversations about substance use should always come from a place of love and understanding, rather than from anger and judgment. Avoid name-calling and aggression because these approaches will only trigger a defensive reaction from your teen.
Following the conversation, most adults will need increased supervision with their teen. Supervision can help observe and monitor the teen’s behavior to have a better understanding of your child’s patterns, actions, and interests. Supervision does not involve stalking or secretly following around your child. It only means you’ll devote more time to learning about them.
Pop Culture, Substance Abuse, & Addiction
Chances are your teen will have plenty of knowledge about addiction, dependence and recovery. TV shows, music lyrics, videos and movies have long discussed and, in some cases, glamorized substance abuse.
During conversations, parents should work to assess what their teen knows and thinks about addiction and recovery issues, and which sources provided this information. Let them know that these examples may be dramatized for effect in the media, and they may not offer the most accurate information.