Parents often worry about their child’s well-being — especially as he or she becomes a teenager. Who does my son hang out with? What does my daughter talk about with her friends? What do they do when I’m not around? A bevy of questions may flutter about a mother’s or father’s mind causing unwanted anxiety. If parents believe their child may be using drugs or alcohol, or hanging around people who do, then this anxiety may worsen.
Teen substance abuse is not uncommon today. Results from the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey revealed that 23.6 percent of 12th graders, 16.5 percent of 10th graders and 8.1 percent of 8th graders reported using illicit drugs in the past month. These substances include marijuana, inhalants and salvia. Furthermore, 35.3 percent of 12th graders, 21.5 percent of 10th graders and 9.7 percent of 8th graders reported past-month alcohol consumption, the survey found.
You can help your child avoid substance abuse. It all starts with sitting down and having an honest conversation.
How to Talk to Your Teen
Talking to a child about drugs and alcohol is no easy task. You must ensure the timing is right and the environment is appropriate, free of distractions. Turn the TV off, put the phones away and be sure your teen has your undivided attention.
1. Ask about your teen’s views
Listen carefully to your child’s opinions on drugs and alcohol. Encourage him or her to be honest. Be sure to pay attention to body language and emotions when discussing each topic.
2. Discuss the consequences of substance abuse
There are numerous reasons not to abuse drugs or alcohol. Those who use these substances face physical and mental consequences. Talk to your teen about these repercussions without using scare tactics.
3. Talk about media messages
Various movies, TV shows and songs include drug-related topics. In fact, some of your child’s favorite musicians likely reference alcohol consumption or drug use. Discuss these media messages and help your teen understand the dangers of these substances.
4. Discuss ways to resist peer pressure
Your teen may be offered drugs or alcohol, specifically if he or she attends a party. Teens are influenced by peer pressure and often give in just to fit in. Teach your teen how to resist this social pressure.
5. Talk about your own drug or alcohol use
Be honest. If you used drugs or alcohol in the past, talk about those experiences. Share with your child how drug or alcohol use affected your own life and what you learned from these mistakes.
Recognizing Drug Use
By the time you’ve had this discussion, your child may have already been offered drugs or alcohol. He or she might have tried drugs and developed dependence to a substance.
- There are a number of warning signs that indicate substance abuse:
- A change in behavior, eating habits or physical appearance
- Social withdrawal
- A decline in academic performance
- Drug paraphernalia lying around his or her room
It is important to know what your teen is doing when you’re not around. Pay attention to your child’s activities and with whom he or she interacts. You could always recommend adult-supervised activities such as intramural sports.
Act quickly if you suspect your child is doing drugs. Approach him or her about your suspicions. Express your concern in a calm manner. Also, remember to focus on the behavior rather than the person. If your child is suffering from substance abuse, he or she needs help — not ridicule.
If your teen has a substance use disorder, seek immediate treatment. Certain rehab centers cater specifically to adolescents. For example, Next Generation Village in Florida offers evidence-based treatment for teens. The facility can pair teens with tutors who work with school districts to ensure students don’t fall behind in their education during treatment.
Drugs and alcohol have derailed promising futures. Talking to your children about substance abuse can go a long way toward helping them reach their potential.
Mayo Clinic. (2016, February 2). Teen drug abuse: Help your teen avoid drugs. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teen-drug-abuse/art-20045921?pg=1
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015, December). Monitoring the Future 2015 Survey Results. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2015-survey-results
About the Author
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He boasts several years of experience writing for a daily publication, multiple weekly journals, a quarterly magazine and various online platforms. He has a bachelor’s degree in communication, with a Journalism concentration, from East Carolina University.