ALL TEENS ARE AT RISK OF SUBSTANCE MISUSE.
YOU ARE THEIR #1 INFLUENCE.
Teens are surrounded by peer pressure and opportunities to experiment or misuse alcohol, tobacco or other substances. Be armed with the latest knowledge and remember to have frequent conversations.
Why have the conversation?
Who’s at risk?
The truth is that no matter how vigilant or involved you are as a parent, it is inevitable that your teen will face stressful situations. Keeping this in mind, it is safe to say that your teen is already at risk for drug and alcohol misuse. However, the good news is that studies have shown having honest and open conversations with your teen can be very effective. According to the 2012 Partnership™ Attitude Tracking Study, teens whose parents teach them about the risks of drugs are significantly less likely to use drugs. We can conclude that providing your teen with proper knowledge and making it clear what your stance is on the issue can be very beneficial. If you don’t know where to start with the talk, we’re here to help!
What’s at stake?
Academics: Declining grades, lack of attendance in classes and extracurricular activities and the likelihood of dropping out increases.
Social Life: Teens are more likely to be ostracized by their peers because of the stigma associated with drug and alcohol misuse.
Family Dysfunction: There is an evident strain and disconnect in households because of the dysfunction that is associated with drug and alcohol misuse.
Physical: There is a risk of overdoses, sexually transmitted diseases from unprotected sex, physical violence, sexual assault, impaired motor skills, traffic accidents due to slow reaction time, impaired vision and decision making, physical injuries and possibly even death.
Mental: Youth who engage in drug and alcohol misuse are at risk for depression, short-term memory loss, learning deficiencies, impaired psycho-motor skills and lack of motivation. Psycho-sexual/emotional development may also be influenced. Finally, drug and alcohol misuse affects brain development because a brain does not fully mature until age 21.
Delinquency: According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, gangs, drug trafficking, prostitution and growing numbers of youth homicides are among the social and criminal justice problems often linked to adolescent substance misuse.
Setting up the conversation:
Before: Set Your Terms
- Be sure to mentally prepare for the conversation so that you convey a calm and understanding demeanor.
- Choose a peaceful environment that is private but not restrictive.
- Choose a time when you are both relaxed and free to talk.
- Prepare your stance on the issue so that your teen is clear about what is expected of them.
During: Having the Conversation
Be sure to avoid using a demanding, confrontational or assumptive tone. Ask clear and concise questions about what they know about drugs and alcohol. If you go into the conversation making them feel like you already know the answers, they could get defensive and feel it isn’t safe to tell the truth.
Remain calm. If you are both comfortable in the conversation, they are likely to open up. Show that you respect what they have to say by listening and avoiding interruption when your teen is talking.
There is no such thing as it being too early or too late to educate your teen on the issue. The earlier you are, the more receptive they are to the conversation. If we focus on prevention, we can lower the chances of intervention.
Don’t use scare tactics.
Although it is important to be factual and realistic, it is equally important to stay away from negative scare tactics. Instead of relying on the scary outcomes of drug and alcohol misuse, it can be more beneficial to focus on what is at stake if your teen misuses drugs or alcohol (i.e. Academics, participation in sports, clubs etc., losing friends, getting into colleges, etc.)
Call a professional.
If you are apprehensive about the talk, it can be helpful to reach out to a professional who can serve as a mediator and facilitator for the conversation. LRADAC encourages healthy and productive conversations about substance misuse by offering outpatient care, individualized plans, integrated therapies and family support, all included in the Compass program. For more information, visit LRADAC.org or contact them at (803) 726-9300.
lradac.org – Family Resources
parentupvt.org – How Can I Help?
medicineabuseproject.org – Parent Talking Kit
drugfree.org – How To Talk With Your Teen
Continuing the Conversation:
After: Continuing the Conversation & Monitoring Your Teen
- Even after having the conversation, it is important to follow up from time to time. Be attentive and receptive to signs that your teen needs to talk. Get to know what moods and behaviors are normal for them and address any changes as they come.
- Be consistent in spending one on one time with your teen, even if it’s just a car ride, a fun outing or eating dinner together regularly as a family.
- Keep your expectations clear. Remind them often of the ground rules you have set.
- Set a curfew and stick to it. If your teen goes out, wait up for them and be attentive to their response times, coherence and the scent of their clothes when they return. Ask questions about the outing and who was present. Make it a normal thing for you to get a recap of the night.
- Get to know their friends and/or significant other by talking with them and inviting them over for healthy, fun supervised activities.
The key is to practice good supervision and remain involved. Let them know that you are accessible, paying attention and will notice if something isn’t right.
For more information on the warning signs, consequences or general tips for starting the talk, check out these beneficial resources:
parentupvt.org – Know the Warning Signs
americanaddictioncenters.org – Tips for Talking About Drugs and Alcohol
ojjdp.gov – Consequences of Drug and Alcohol Misuse
2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study. The Partnership™ at DreeFree.org website. http://www.drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/PATS-2012-FULL-REPORT2.pdf. Released April 23, 2013. Accessed August 4, 2016.
A Parent’s Guide to Raising Drug-Free Teens. Prevention First: Leadership for drug-free community’s website. https://www.prevention.org/Publications/documents/Parent%20Brochure_FINAL_7.30.09.pdf. Updated July, 2009. Accessed August 4, 2016.