Talking to your child about the risks inherent to the abuse of drugs and alcohol isn’t a one-time discussion. It’s an ongoing conversation that you engage in whenever you have the opportunity, and it’s more effective the earlier you begin having it and the more you exemplify the anti-drug and anti-drinking principles you espouse. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Nurture your relationship.
The closer you and your child are, the more likely a trust will develop, making the conversation easier and more honest on both sides.
- Spend at least an hour a week one on one with your child.
- Know the stressors in your child’s life.
- Play together – board games, sports, walks, bike rides, or do-it-yourself projects are great ways to connect with your child.
2. Ask compelling questions.
Instead of simply stating a list of facts about the use of drugs, ask your teenager compelling questions about the consequences of using drugs. Finding out what he or she already knows can help you to identify and correct the myths as well as fill in the blanks. An example: “Did you read in the paper about so-and-so being arrested for possession? What do you think will happen to him? Why do you think he got arrested for that?”
3. Talk about the real dangers and risks that come with drug and alcohol abuse.
Simple statements like “drugs are bad” are simply not enough motivation for a teenager to avoid risk. Instead, you can talk about:
- Specific health consequences caused by the use and abuse of specific drugs
- Legal issues
- Academic risks
- Social problems
- Long-term problems like addiction
- Life-ending issues like accident and overdose
It’s important too, however, to point out that drugs do cause a “high,” making the user feel happy and it may look like fun, but that that is often followed by “crash” that feels like the flu or worse and that a few minutes of feeling good just aren’t worth the life-altering risks that can occur.
4. Find out what their friends are doing.
Your teen may be far more receptive to a conversation about his peer group than about himself. This conversation may be as general as statements like, “Have you heard of kids taking Adderall as a study drug?” or as specific as, “Does so-and-so do drugs?” Avoid ownership phrases such as “your friend/s” that may sound like an accusation, but do ask general questions like, “Does anyone you know get high?” Don’t be afraid to be direct and personal: “Have you ever been offered a drink? Have you ever tried marijuana?”
Your son or daughter may surprise you with how much information they already have about the types of drugs that are popular, how they’re used, and the consequences of their use. If they seem grounded and ready to avoid use of the drug, reinforce that decision with positivity. If they are using drugs or alcohol or express the opinion that it’s “not that bad,” keep your eyes and ears open in the coming weeks and months to make sure they aren’t endangering themselves.
Have you talked to your child about drug use? Any tips you want to share? Leave us a comment below.