Most parents feel at least a little bit uncomfortable talking about weighty topics such as drugs with their children. But however uncomfortable the subject may be, talking to teenagers about drug use is extremely important. Like relationships, sex, and alcohol, drug use is something that most teenagers encounter or at least hear about in their daily interactions with peers and family. However, taking a proactive, support approach can help a teen understand the complex emotions involved. Doing so may prevent a child from dabbling in experimental drugs or keep an existing habit from developing into a lifelong problem.
Sometimes, it’s not always your teen’s involvement with drugs that warrants a discussion. If a friend or family member has been using drugs, talking to your teen openly about this fact can build trust and help show them how to draw healthy boundaries and avoid falling into drug use.
Read on to find our tips for talking to teenagers about drug use.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
When you were a teenager, how would you have liked your parents to address the tricky subject of drug use? Try to tap into your empathic side and understand why your teen might be hesitant or even afraid to open up to you about their experiences with drugs. If you approach the conversation in a way you might have responded well to when you were their age, you have a better chance of opening up a productive dialogue.
Honesty is a two-way street. If you have a history of drug use in your life, don’t try to lie about it or obscure your involvement. Likewise, try not to lie about any family members who use drugs. Teenagers can often sense these lies and, if they feel you are less than honest, are unlikely to be honest with you in return.
You don’t have to disclose every single detail, but trusting your teen enough to be honest with them can open a door of communication that might otherwise stay shut.
Avoid Lengthy Lectures
No teenager will respond well to a long, judgmental lecture. Remember, you’ve had your child’s whole life to set a positive example and impart your wisdom; you don’t have to pack it all into one discussion.
Ask Questions, But Don’t Interrogate
To understand the issues your teenager is dealing with, you will need to ask some questions about their life:
- How do they feel about drug use in general?
- Do they know anyone who uses drugs?
- In their opinion, what are some of the consequences of using drugs?
The more freely they answer these questions, the more you can relax knowing that you and your teenager have open lines of communication.
Avoid Accusations and Judgment
If you were a teenager, how would you feel if you opened up to your parents about a complex topic, only to be met with judgment or punishment? It’s unlikely you would want to be honest with that parent again anytime soon. Though your reflex might be to get angry or emotional if your teenager discloses something you don’t like, now is not the time to come down harshly. Do your best to take an objective stance and provide information and advice rather than laying down punishment.
Remind Them of Your Rules and Consequences for Breaking Those Rules
With that said, they are still your child, and you are still their parent. It is okay, and even healthy, to lay down firm boundaries for what behavior is and is not acceptable in the future.
Encourage Healthy Boundaries
Establishing your boundaries as a parent models healthy behavior for your teen. If you notice that they are struggling to set boundaries with a friend or family member who uses drugs, or if they mention feeling a lot of peer pressure during parties, it can be helpful to explore this topic further. Together, develop ways that your teen can respond politely but firmly during tricky moments.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
This conversation should not be the only time you and your teen openly discuss drug use. Make sure your teenager understands that they can come to you any time for honest, non-judgmental advice and help. The more you encourage active communication, the more likely your teen will talk to you if they ever run into real trouble.
Need Help Discussing Drug Use With Your Teenager?
When you’re preparing to have a difficult conversation, it helps to have as many resources behind you as possible. As you talk with your teenager, emphasize how an addiction recovery center is always an option if they feel that they (or a friend or family member) need help dealing with drug use.
Desert Cove Recovery helps patients over 18 escape the pull of addiction and build healthy life skills to ease the pressure of facing the world as a young adult. Please reach out to our experienced team to learn more about our program.