Talking to Your Kids About Substance Abuse, Part 1
Drug and alcohol abuse in children is
mostly preventable through education and parental support. Yet thousands of teenagers, are forced to
enter substance abuse treatment each year. How can you help you child
avoid this? Talking with them about the risks of drug or alcohol abuse can help
inform them on things they may or may not know. Giving them the tools they need
to resist pressure from outside influences is critical to allow them to make up
their own minds. Good communication is key. Make sure you are listening and
allowing them to ask questions.
Choose a time when you’re not likely
to be interrupted, and set phones to silent. If you’re anxious, share those
feelings. The more honest and vulnerable you are with your thoughts and
feelings the more likely your kid will be open and honest with you.
Here are some
suggestions for talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol:
your teen about their perspective. Avoid
droning on about how them abusing drugs would make you feel. This isn’t about
you, it’s about them. Learning how they think and feel about drug abuse is a
great place to start. If they are complacent about how they feel try asking
questions that will make them think through the experience of substance abuse.
why misusing substances can be harmful. Avoid
trying to scare them. Most kids can see right through this. Instead, focus on
how drug or alcohol use can affect things that are important to them, like participating in sports, their
appearance, or driving themselves places.
talking about external messages. Some
media messages can glamorize drug or alcohol use and make it seem like a cool
thing to participate in. Talk to your kids about the messages they see and hear
how they interpreted them. Teach them to think for themselves and ask, “Is this
behavior really “cool,” just because it’s on social media?” Offer your own
opinion if you think it will help.
them plan how to resist peer pressure. Go
over how to turn down drugs or alcohol if they are offered. Parents can provide
teens with an easy way out. Tell them it is okay to use excuses like “I can’t
smoke because my parent’s drug test me regularly.” In some cases, setting up a
discreet code so your teen can text or call you when they are in an uncomfortable
situation can be very helpful in preventing substance abuse.
prepared for questions about your own drug and alcohol use. Teens are curious by nature, they will
want to know what your experience with substance abuse was like at their age.
While these stories can be helpful, if you aren’t comfortable sharing them,
then tell them that. Don’t lie to cover things up. Or make up a story that is
the ideal way you would want them to do. Be honest, and they will respect you
The Dangers of
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Adolescents who experiment with drugs
and alcohol put their health and safety at risk. Teen substance abuse has its
consequences. Consider the following:
Driving under the influence of any drug can impair a driver’s motor skills,
putting the driver, passengers, and others on the road at risk.
and unprotected sexual activity.
Poor judgment, which can result in unplanned and unsafe sex, is a common side
effect of teen substance abuse.
or alcohol dependence and addiction.
Abusing drugs or alcohol increases the risk of teens developing severe drug or
alcohol use disorders later in life.
and other health problems. Teen’s
a still growing and developing. Misusing drugs and alcohol can negatively
affect teen brain development, and may cause serious memory problems later on.
Drug and alcohol abuse can cause damage to internal organs such as the liver
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about how to prevent your child from using drugs and alcohol as well as treatment for kids struggling with addiction.