The teen years are tough, for both parents and their children. So much is changing and developing during this time, and teens are experimenting with different things in any attempt to define their place in the world. New clothes, new hairstyles, new friends, and new activities are all common ways in which teens look to establish their identities.
This is also a time when many children have their first meaningful contact with drugs. Whether it is marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, or alcohol, teens are increasingly exposed to more and more drug use as they move into high school.
It is crucial that you as a parent know how to talk to your teen about drugs and drug use so that they can make good life choices when faced with a decision surrounding drugs. Below are some actionable tips to help get the conversation started.
Start the Conversation Early
Many parents feel that they should wait to talk to their teen about drugs; the reasons for this vary. Perhaps they hope that by not talking about it, the teen will not be interested in drugs or drug use, or they want to wait until the teen brings up the subject on his or her own. This is an ineffective strategy for creating an honest and open discussion about drugs.
Begin talking to your children about drugs when they are young; it is never really too early to begin exploring the topic. Keep your message clear and concise. It is vital that you work on building a strong, supportive dialogue about drugs with your children so that they feel comfortable with the subject in later years. When your children know that you are ready and willing to listen and discuss issues calmly and lovingly, they are much more likely to reveal their anxieties, concerns, and experiences as they move into the teenage years.
Be A Good Role Model
This is extremely important if you hope to help your teen make good decisions. Children know when their parents are being hypocritical; it is difficult to lecture somebody about behavior in which you are personally engaging.
Be moderate in your drinking habits, and if you use recreational drugs, think hard about the message you want to send to your children. Dispose of all prescription medications properly and safely, and try to teach your children that there are better ways to manage stress than drugs or alcohol. Engage in meditation, regular exercise, and healthy hobbies.
Keep the Conversation Going Both Ways
Everybody knows how ineffective a one-sided conversation is, especially with teenagers. Be vigilant in making sure they are participating in the conversation, thinking critically and constructively about what you are both discussing.
A big part of this step is to ask what your child already knows about drugs and their use. Parents are often surprised by the breadth of their children’s knowledge, as well as the amount of misinformation they may have about drugs. Asking what they know as well as their thoughts and opinions helps to establish trust between you, and will keep the discussion on track as a two-way street.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Crucial to keeping the conversation going both ways is for you to be honest and open with your child about your own experiences with drugs. While some stories may be best left in the past, it is important that you remain relatable and help your children know that you really do understand their struggles. Sometimes being a good role model does not mean being perfect; it means showing them that you made mistakes as well and sharing the lessons you learned from those mistakes.
Follow these tips to create a constructive dialogue with your children about drugs and drug abuse, and to keep the conversation going forward as they grow. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we are here to support parents in Washington State. If you are concerned about your child and are seeking help, contact us today. It is never too late to start the conversation.