Many parents avoid talking to their teens about drugs because they simply aren’t sure how to start the conversation, but it is essential to maintain open lines of communication so you aren’t blindsided by your teen’s drug use. I worked as a teacher in a residential treatment center for teens and what I saw over and over again were parents who said they didn’t talk to their teens about drug use or look for signs of drug use for one simple reason – their child would never do that. By the time those parents discovered how deeply in trouble their child was, it was too late for preventative measures.
Open the Lines of Communication Early
Teens are notoriously bad communicators. Despite the fact that they are often feeling a swirl of emotion, parents are often lucky to get more than a one or two word response if they try and discus drug use with their child. Open the lines of communication early by developing an open relationship with your child while he is young. Don’t be afraid to bring up sensitive subjects before the teen years. Kids are exposed to drug use earlier all the time so it is never to early to educate them. After working with 12 year old kids who had serious addiction issues, I have regular, developmentally appropriate conversations with my 6 year old in an effort to provide him with information before he is faced with needing to make a choice.
Not confronting your teenager about his or her teenage alcohol abuse could only make things worse for the both of you.
Do your Research First
There’s few things worse than having an awkward conversation without knowing what you are going to say first. Do some basic research before talking with your teen so that you can be prepared to answer any questions that may come up and have some factual information to add to the conversation. Try talking with other parents of teens for advice on what has worked for them and what mistakes to avoid.
Don’t Hide the Truth
Chances are, you’ve had a friend or family member who has abused drugs or alcohol. Rather than hiding the truth from your teen, be upfront about it and talk about the way those choices have affected that person’s life. Seeing the true consequences of drug and alcohol abuse will be far more effective than any statistics you can find to discourage drug use.
Treat Your Child with Respect
Respect is not something you earn the right to with age. Respect is something everyone deserves as human beings. Treat your child with respect and acknowledge that, ultimately, he is responsible for the choices he makes in life. Practice being aware of how your words are coming across to your teen, by considering your tone, body language, and choice of words. Trying to control your child will always backfire. Make it clear early on that you are there to help guide, not to control.
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