In today’s world, the pressure of raising children can be pretty severe.
Unfortunately, drugs are a part of that stressful environment.
Talking with your teen about drugs isn’t any easier than talking to them about sex. But as a parent, you have the responsibility to educate them.
A balanced approach is your best route. Don’t be too cool and casual, nor too rigid and judgmental about the matter. One will make your teen think that drugs are not a big deal, the other can cause them to put up a wall of silence. Either way, you won’t achieve what you need to.
Does that mean you’re fighting a losing battle? Not at all.
Parents – the First Line of Defense
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the challenge to have a discussion with your teen about drugs, you may not quite grasp how important your role actually is in the matter. But make no mistake, it is of utmost importance.
In order to ensure your success, though, you will first have to prepare well in advance.
Building an emotional connection and trust between you and your child from very early on is vital. Only that way can you lay a solid foundation so you may have a chance that your teen will listen to what you have to say.
For a moment, consider your relationship with your teen and ask yourself: Do I truly listen to my child’s concerns and opinions? Or am I quick with criticism and slow with commendations? Does my child seem to feel comfortable approaching me with their personal problems? Does my child consider me an intimate friend?
Of course, you can’t just aim for becoming your child’s best friend, you have to be their parent as well. Striking a balance between being firm and flexible means you need to set boundaries and stick to them. There’s no need to be harsh, but neither should you be complacent about the possibility that your teen may use drugs, nor minimize the risk they pose.
When your teen feels an emotional connection to you and can see evidence of family support, they can resist drugs far easier. That holds true even for teens with mental and emotional issues. Never underestimate the protection close family ties provide.
Other Strategies for a Successful Discussion with Your Teens
Start when they’re young
You can never start too early. Lamentably, health professionals have seen children at ever younger ages try drugs for the first time. It’s imperative that you start educating your child before they have the chance to use them. Waiting too long could spell certain disaster.
Communicate clearly and repeatedly
Make your message very clear. Don’t be vague. It only leaves room for confusion. Reinforce your message with your own example. That includes paying special attention to the way you handle medication. Don’t give your child the impression that prescription drugs are harmless. Take them only when needed and as prescribed. And don’t even fool yourself into thinking that one talk will be enough. If your child isn’t complaining about you talking too much about drugs, it’s a good indication that you’re perhaps not talking enough about it.
Take advantage of casual opportunities
Look for teachable moments throughout your day. Refrain from shaming or interrogating your child. Talk about drug abuse from the angle of a health issue, just like you would perhaps talk about other health problems. Casual conversations are less threatening and a lot more productive than stern sermons. Use opportunities like a TV program on drug addicts or a character in a movie lighting a joint to ask your teen what their thoughts are on this matter. You may also be able to take advantage of the occasion to find out if others at your child’s school are involved in drugs.
Stick to facts
In order to have a wealth of facts, you’ll have to do some research. You can find a lot of fact sheets online, like at the National Institute for Drug Abuse. But whatever facts you use, make sure they’re accurate. Stick to those facts. Don’t exaggerate! But also don’t condone the use of “milder” drugs. Simply ensure that your child understands the effects of drugs on their health—their addictiveness, their effects on the brain and respiratory system, their contribution to anxiety, depression, and cancer.
Make it personal
Help your teen see that using drugs can seriously jeopardize something they may value a lot, like certain goals they have. Don’t be afraid to point out real-world consequences. For that end, you may want to give them some examples, too. Including your own, if you have ever had problems with drugs. Be honest with them and answer questions they may ask you about your experience truthfully. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to go into every detail. But speak from your heart and emphasize the negative effects drugs had on you, how they hurt you, and why you perhaps regret your actions now.
Above all, don’t just focus on the message you want to convey, focus on your child. Take their personality into consideration and try to approach the subject with warmth yet firmness. And avoid making this a one-way conversation. Listen to what your teen has to say and respect their opinions on the matter, even if you don’t agree.
Only when you can give your teen information that’s balanced and meaningful—without becoming overly emotional—will you be able to empower them to make good choices.