Have you seen the advertising campaign that claims parents are “the anti-drug?” The idea is that parents have the most influence on their teens and therefore can have the most effect on whether the teen takes drugs. When you’re communicating with your teen about drugs, do you know what to say? Here are some guidelines you might want to follow.
Ask yourself what you want before starting the conversation. If you’re coming to the conversation out of fear or because you’re angry, your motive will be totally different than being motivated by love and concern. You’ll begin to focus on punishment or coming across as being right rather than trying to solve a perceived problem. Try to take a deep breath, ask yourself what you want to accomplish, and then begin the conversation. You’ll stand a better chance of influencing your teen if you come to the conversation with the right motives.
Be sure you have your facts straight. It’s easy to begin judging your teen when you’re concerned for their well-being, but your teen will likely shut down and stop listening to you. Don’t come right out and accuse them of wrong-doing. Instead, you want to present them with facts. “We’ve noticed there are a few pills of this prescription missing. You haven’t had any friends over recently, so we have to presume you’ve taken them.” This will garner a better response than “You’ve taken some of my prescription and shared it at a party.”
Make your teen feel safe. It’s common for teens to feel confrontational when having this type of conversation.
- Help them realize you’re not trying to control them or make them miserable. However, you are concerned about their hurting themselves or others if they use poor judgment when drugs or alcohol are involved.
- Be flexible about when you choose to talk to your teen, but not THAT you talk to them. Engage your teen when they’re more comfortable rather than forcing the conversation to prove your control over them. “I want to talk with you about this subject and would like your opinion. Would this be a good time?”
- Respect your teen’s choice of when to have the talk. You’re not relinquishing your place as parent; you’re being respectful of their time. Of course, if your teen puts you off repeatedly, you will want to press the issue. “I know you have plans to go to a party tonight. I believe there will be drugs. We can either talk now or you can stay home. I need to be sure you hear my point of view.”
- Show an interest in your teen’s life even when there aren’t issues that concern you. Keep communications lines open, praise them for positive actions, and be sure your teen knows you love them and want the best for them. This may help them feel safe and more willing to talk when you do have concerns.
- Ensure your teen lets you know where they’re going before they leave the house. Talk about rules about curfew and their choice of friends. Hold your teen accountable for following the rules you set forth consistently. Have consequences that are agreed upon and stick with them if your teen violates your rules.
Talk to your teen about the risks of using drugs. Explain to your teen the harm drugs can cause. When communicating with your teen about drugs, be explicit in your desire that you don’t want them to use drugs, smoke, or drink because you love them and want what’s best for them.