How to Talk to Your Teen About Drugs
The teenage years are hallmarked as being the time of risk-taking behavior and independence. However, this time in a person’s life is also a crucial developmental milestone. It can be a confusing time for teenagers and a stressful time for their parents. But, talking to your teen about drugs does not have to be hard and can help them better navigate the teenage world.
Spell out The Rules and Consequences
Make it clear on what the rules are when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Set your limits as soon as you can and make sure you enforce the rules if they are broken. Your teen should be able to recall what the rules are and know what the consequences are for breaking one. Always try to be rational. Studies show that teens that have limits often behave well. However, not having any freedom could lead to the opposite effect occurring. Teenagers naturally are going to try to bend the rules and push limits, as they are breaking into their independence.
Do not just set rules, explain why you are putting them there. Giving a clear reason why will help the teen understand the full scope. You may want to explain that a teenager engaging in any kind of drug or alcohol experimentation is illegal and can have extreme effects. Any substance can be harmful and even deadly. You may want to also touch on their school and social life, explaining that they could get kicked off the team or affect them when they apply to colleges.
Leave Judgement Out of the Equation
When talking to your teen about drugs, one of the most important things you can do is leave judgement out of the conversation. This can often be hard to do and may take some practice. Your teen is molding into their own person and by modeling good communication, you help to shape them. This means that you should talk to your teens the way that you would want to be talked to.
When you talk about people that are struggling with substance abuse, try not to be judgmental. Those who are struggling are not necessarily bad people or have bad morals. They are suffering from a disease that is affecting all aspects of their lives and need treatment. If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs, it is important to speak positively to them. Tell them about how proud you are of their achievements and where you see them in the future.
Offer Empathy and Support
Your teen may seem like they want to be off on their own and not have the backing of a parent. However, this is a crucial developmental stage in a teen’s life in which they need the support and guidance of their parents. It is important that your teen is aware that they can come to you if something were to ever go wrong, if they need help, or just to talk. Something you could say to your teen is, “If you are ever in a bad situation, you can call and I will come and get you. No questions asked”. This helps to develop a level of mutual trust between you and your teen.
Support also means allowing your teen an opportunity to speak. They may have questions, concerns, or may just want to voice their opinion. Listen intently and provide them with a well thought out response. It is always a good idea to become educated on the topic of substance abuse before you have conversations with your teen.
Explain The Risks of Drug Use
Many teens are not aware of the risks of drug use. Even experimenting one time can lead to serious consequences and could even lead to death. Drug and alcohol use directly affects your brain, causing temporary and permanent damage. The reward pathway is what is most affected. Drugs and alcohol cause an unnatural temporary high that your brain reacts abnormally to. This causes your brain to seek out that same feeling, regardless of the damage it can cause.
Peer pressure is a real thing and it is most prevalent in teens and young adults, as they want to feel a sense of belonging. Teens may often think that if their friends are doing it without negative consequences, they can too. However, every person reacts differently to different drugs. It only takes a teen one time to experience life-changing effects.
Keep The Conversation Ongoing
Talking once about drugs with your teen is a great starting point, but the conversation should not stop there. Watch for any changes in your teen’s behavior or physical health that could be indicators that something is wrong. Keep in mind that the conversation should be regarded as open-ended and it goes both ways. Allow them to come to you before you approach them about suspicious activity. If your suspicions are confirmed, inform them that they can always come to you.
Keeping communication open and positive will help your teen feel safe and comfortable to come to you to talk. The teen years can be a challenging time as they embrace young adulthood and grow into themselves as a person. Stay positive and calm at all times, while watching for changing peer groups or changes in attitude. As the situations change or experiences happen, tweak the conversation to fit both of you.
Suspect Your Teen is Abusing Drugs?
If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs, it is important to act quickly. If you fear they are in immediate danger, seek help as soon as possible. Otherwise, search for hard evidence that will help to confirm your suspicions before confronting them. Give them a chance to open up with you. Do not ask, “Is there anything you would like to tell me?” because it sounds condescending. Instead, ask, “Has everything been okay lately?”. It is not your fault if your teen has begun abusing drugs. Seek the support you need, as well.
The Arizona Addiction Recovery Center provides treatment programs for young adults aged 18-35. Their healthcare professionals strive to provide programs that prepare their patients for both a successful recovery and a successful life. Your teen will receive individualized care, treatment, and support that will allow them to reach their goals. Call today to learn more about how they are leaders in young adult treatment in Arizona.