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9 Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Drug Use

The summer break is over and most kids have made their way back to school. They’ll have plenty of time to catch up with friends and talk about what they’ve been doing over the last couple months. And for some, this is the time they’ll be confronted with dangerous temptations in the form of drugs and alcohol.

Peer Pressure and Proactive Parenting

The overwhelming majority of teenagers are offered drugs and alcohol at some point during their junior high or high school careers. Unfortunately, many kids buckle under the peer pressure and say yes to drinking or smoking pot. But those who decline often do so because their parents warned them about the potential consequences beforehand.

As parents, we want to protect our children. That means we have to be willing to put our own personal embarrassment aside and have a few “uncomfortable” conversations with our kids. The more honest and open the dialogue, the better.

Here’s a look at 9 effective tips to keep in mind when talking to your teen about the dangers of drugs and alcohol:

  • Avoid a lecture: Make sure you’re having a conversation and not a monologue. Allow your child the opportunity to speak and provide their own thoughts on every subject.
  • Make it relatable: Talk about your own experiences with drug use. If you’ve never used drugs before, explain why you made that decision. If you smoked pot as a teen or young adult, be honest and own up to your mistakes.
  • Pick a good time to chat: Kids will be less responsive to a conversation if they’re heading out the door to meet up with friends. Choose good blocks of time to have these talks, such as after dinner or on the drive home from school.
  • Point out drug-related situations you both see: If you’re at the park with your child and you happen to see a group of kids smoking pot, use that as a teachable moment and talk about the negative effects of drugs.
  • Use breaking entertainment news to your advantage: Whether it’s an article about a rock star that died from a heroin overdose or a TV news segment discussing the dangers of binge drinking, use these real-life examples as a conversation starter. It’s a great way to really find out what your kids think about drugs and alcohol.
  • Point out the expense of drug abuse: If a pack of cigarettes cost $14, then a pack-a-day habit will set your child back nearly $750 each year. Putting it in terms like that helps kids understand that there are far better ways to spend their money.
  • Talk about immediate consequences: Teens are often unable to think about the “big picture,” especially with drug use. Instead, focus on short term consequences like how smoking pot causes bad breath or how alcohol impairs athletic ability.
  • Explain that drugs are addictive: Many kids don’t understand the concept of addiction; they mistakenly believe they can stop using whatever they want. Explain the chemical brain changes that go hand-in-hand with long-term drug use. Help them to understand that getting clean requires professional help. You can even take it a step further by touring a local rehab facility.
  • Create and enforce rules: Make it clear where you stand on drug and alcohol use, then clearly describe what the consequences will be for breaking those rules.


Additional Reading: The Drug-Related Mistakes Haunting My Teenage Son


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