Adolescent Substance Abuse

Adolescent Substance Abuse

How do I talk to my teen?

This can be a difficult and often emotionally-challenging task. Parents come in so many forms. There are the “helicopter” parents that hover over their children, watching every move.

Adolescent Substance Abuse


There are they “buddy” parents, who want to be friends with their children. Some parents are not involved at all with their children, while others limit their interaction to only the necessary tasks. There is a vast majority of parents who just try to do the right thing.

Let’s cut to the chase. You are the parent, so be the parent. As a parent, you want to be involved with your child. Preventative measures concerning the use of drugs and alcohol are important for parent. Just talking to your kids is huge. When you do have a conversation, understand that talking to your teens should be a dialogue, not a monologue. Commonly, teens think their parents are pretty lame, stupid, uninformed, old fashioned and out of touch. That’s a given. Commonly parents think they should lecture the child and not listen to what that child has to say. You can see that any communication is difficult when neither party wants to hear.

Teenagers are people, so talk to them like people. You can be authoritative without being authoritarian. What is your teen’s understanding of drug abuse? What have they experienced in their school, with their friends? What is a point of commonality that you can use to make a connection with your kid? Listen for that. They will probably have ideas that are counter to your own, so listen to them and try to pick up on themes and common points to find agreement. So often the conversation turns into an argument because the teen or the parent gets mad. “You’re not listening to me!”

Think of communicating with your teen as a process. Teens tune out the parents because the parents lack credibility with them. I am older than most people who read this response, but I can vividly remember my teenaged years and how difficult it was to get my parents to listen to me. It was hard for them to just listen, mainly because they did not agree with my reasoning, or even how I felt about anything. I was always wrong. They were always right. Allow your teen to express their ideas and feelings. Talking to your kids about drugs isn’t a debate; it’s a conversation, an exchange of ideas. If you are willing to listen, you might want them to tell you about drugs. You can ask the questions, just as if you were talking to a drug abuse professional. The idea is to get them thinking about the answers to questions. If it’s their idea, chances are better that they’ll engage and maybe discover for themselves the seriousness of the subject.

Teenagers are no strangers to drugs in the schools. They may not be equipped to answer important and complex questions about drugs, but they know who is using and they know where they can buy drugs. They have this feeling of invisibility, so if they are using, it’s not a problem because they’re going to live forever. They’re growing up and discovering so many new things. You need to tune into that experience. Remember your own youth and how you felt. Look for the common experience and demonstrate your understanding of their viewpoints.

Don’t point fingers at them, or issue ultimatums and threats. Rather, try to make a loving connection with them, to allow them to see a larger picture. They need to know you love them, so tell them so. Listen to them and give them ample opportunity to open up and talk to you. As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is a good saying to remember.

Be the parent. Love your children. Be in charge.

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ABOUT…

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