When speaking to your teen about drug abuse, it can be difficult to connect and genuinely understand each other. If only it was as simple as telling him or her not to abuse drugs. Peer pressure and the challenges of early adulthood can make their decision to abstain challenging.
Be Clear and Direct
While you may tell your teen to ‘be careful’ about drinking or using drugs, he or she may not interpret the message the way you mean it. Although you are asking your teen not to drink or take drugs, they will think that you mean to use moderation. Be clear and direct. Say something like the following, “It’s okay to go out with your friends, as long as you can assure me you won’t drink or smoke pot.” Make the message clear – not subject to interpretation.
Seek to Understand, Not Lecture
Being a parent, you want to impart your wisdom about the dangers of drug abuse. However, telling your teen what you know, or lecturing, will likely prohibit further discussion about the topic.
The idea is to get your teen to contemplate – to think carefully about drug or alcohol use. For example, you might pose the following question, “What do you really know about marijuana and its effects?” Doing so will show your teen you value their viewpoint. While you don’t need to agree with what your teen says, you will let them know you are listening and that you respect their viewpoint.
Give Insights Not Judgements
To keep your teen from getting on the defensive, it is important to make them feel like they aren’t being judged. You can do this by asking about the reasons he or she may have tried a drug or drank alcohol. If he or she is a regular user, it is best to obtain a professional assessment from a qualified and credentialed drug abuse counselor. Doing so will give you more of an understanding about your teen’s behavior.
Learn When It Is Okay to Intervene
Drug abuse can be a delicate topic. Therefore, you need to know when it is okay to intervene or gain professional help. If you notice your child is drinking or using substances regularly, don’t wait. He or she needs to learn how to cope with any current struggles. If they might be experimenting with opioids or prescription drugs like fentanyl, take immediate action, as this is the substance that has been most responsible for the explosion of fatal overdoses in our youth.
According to the Stanford Children’s Health website, drug abuse or drinking can result for several reasons and signs and symptoms may include:
- Behavioral problems
- Poor academic performance
- Emotional distancing
- Changes in mood or eating or sleeping patterns
- Runny nose, frequent sore throats, or loss of weight
- Memory problems or dizziness
- Evidence of the use of drug paraphernalia
Most often a teen who gets involved in drugs or alcohol does not receive clearly defined guidelines about use. They may hang around at-risk friends or grow up in either too strict of home environment or one that is too permissive.
When you speak to your teen about drug use, it is important to keep the above points in mind. If you need help with discussing the use of drugs or alcohol, turn to a family counselor about how to communicate with your teen or set up counseling sessions if you are experiencing abuse-related conflicts in your family.
About the Author
Scott H. Silverman has been fighting against addiction for almost 40 years. He is the CEO of Confidential Recovery, an outpatient rehab in San Diego.