Starting the Discussion About Drug and Alcohol Use with Your Kids
Parents face a tough dilemma about substance use: we may want our children to abstain from alcohol and drug use but what do we do if they are not? Besides the effects of substance use on the developing brain, teens using substances may face very serious consequences.
Parents should communicate clearly and early that avoiding alcohol and drugs completely is the best decision for their child’s health. There is no standard approach that guarantees successful dialogue with your child about substance abuse, but the principles below may be helpful.
Discovering Substance Use in Your Child
Discovering your child is using drugs or alcohol is likely to stir up a lot of fear and emotion. The best way to find out what’s going on and to help is to start talking to your teen. The approach to this conversation can help set the tone and avoid the conversation turning into a confrontation.
- Set the stage. Set yourself up for success by creating a safe, open and comfortable space to talk.
- Get on their level, literally. If your child is sitting, sit with them.
- Put panic or anger aside. Keep reminding yourself to speak from a place of love and listen to your child.
- Watch your voice. While you may want to scream and yell, this will likely push your child away.
- Listen as much as you talk.
- Express how much you care. Explain the reason why you are asking questions is because you want them to be healthy, safe and happy.
- Don’t start a conversation with your child when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t be on your cell phone or distracted. Avoid interruptions while you’re talking.
- Don’t yell or discipline. First, find a calm way to have the discussion, offering emotional support.
- Don’t take criticism personally or get defensive.
- Don’t overreact. Focus on what you want for your child in the future.
- Don’t ask yes or no questions. Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue with your child.
Find Additional Resources for Crisis Help, Support Groups and Substance Abuse Treatement.