Due to the influx of illicit drug use in recent years, specifically opioids, teen substance abuse is a terrifying thought for parents across the country. Just like adults, teens can be exposed to drugs and alcohol on a near daily occurrence. As parents, it is our responsibility to help prepare them for possible situations that may come up – even if the situations include drugs and alcohol. Following these key points will allow you to help prepare your teen for real-world experiences.
1. Do Your Research
Before you talk to your teen about substance abuse and prevention, do some research. We are not made to have every single answer in the book. There are plenty of resources out there for parents to educate themselves on the matter. As a general resource for substance abuse and prevention, SAMHSA is a fantastic resource with answers to many questions you may have and many statistics for every state to keep you educated. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has plenty of resources for families who want to learn more about teen substance abuse as well as prevention. Also, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has resources and statistics about everything from addiction science to substance abuse in the LGBT community.
2. Set a Good Example
This point may seem like a no-brainer for people but it is the key to making sure the conversation sticks. If your teen sees you or other adults around them abuse substances, they may see your conversation as hypocritical. We are not perfect, but striving to be the ideal model you want your children to be will help them choose between using and not.
3. Create an Open Dialog
When you start talking to your teenager about substance abuse, make sure to create an environment where an open conversation can happen. Having more of a “guiding” tone will help keep the conversation open. If the conversation ends up becoming more of a lecture, your teen will most likely tune you out and not listen to what you have to say. This may seem difficult at first, but doing so will set the path for future dialog. Once the initial conversation is over, sprinkle the topic in general conversation. Doing this will make the topic less awkward for you both and will also allow your child to open up to you more.
4. Create Teachable Moments
From our families and communities to celebrities, teachable moments on substance abuse are all around us – use them to your advantage. Teach them that not “everyone is doing it,” make sure that they know about local incidents that involve drugs or alcohol, and most importantly, make sure you express your opinion on the matter. These teachable moments will also help make the topic easier to talk about.
Using these points and implementing them will help make the conversation with your teen seem less daunting. Talking to your teen about substance abuse should not be a scary and/or an intimidating scenario. Being a teen is an amazing time in your child’s life that is full of learning and creating new life experiences. Studies have shown that kids whose parents discuss the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse with them are 50% less likely to use. Building an open line of communication and continuously talking with your child about substance abuse prevention can help prevent them from using illegal drugs.