How to talk to your teenager about drugs
What happened to your 13 year old who hated smoking and gave you a look if you had a second glass of wine? People who took drugs were ‘stupid and they were never going to be that foolish’.
Two years later you find cigarettes in your child’s school bag, or pick them up from a party drunk or perhaps even find drug paraphernalia in their cupboard.
Here are some tips on how to talk to your teenager about drugs.
- Firstly, it should be your pre-teen that you are talking too. Start talking about drugs and alcohol abuse early – from age eight whenever the subject comes on – on TV for example.
- Ask your child what they know about drugs and alcohol abuse. Include cigarettes/vaping and cannabis in your discussion.
- Tell them what you feel about drug and alcohol abuse and about how concerned you would be if they ever participated in this behaviour.
- Don’t just talk about the harm of drug and alcohol abuse, talk about the positive aspects and why people do drugs and drink – to feel good, to escape, to avoid feelings or a situation.
- Focus on the short term problems that come from drugs and alcohol rather than the long term. Talk about bad breath and skin problems, difficulties with sports and academics.
- Explain that some people cannot stop once they have started and one never knows who that is going to be.
- Also that teenage brains are wired to take risks and experiment – let them know that one day they will be faced with making the decision of whether to use or not.
- Set up some ‘family rules’ about drug and alcohol use – allow your child to participate – include random drug testing in the agreement.
- Set up a safety net in case your child is in a risky situation and wants to get out – no questions asked.
- Keep on talking about it and make it safe for your children to tell you about the drug and alcohol use that they see or hear is going on around them.
If you find that they are already using:
- Don’t respond in anger. Be compassionate and understanding but firm.
- Direct them to the family rules that were made together.
- Put consequences in place that will keep them safe.
- Drug test them regularly.
- Speak to the school. Don’t hide the problem.
- Get some help – take your child to an addiction therapist.
Don’t ever let your child sleep over at a friend after a party or get together unless you are very sure that there will be adequate supervision.