Have the Talk

Prepare Your Kid to Face Life's Challenges
Preventing Adolescent Substance Abuse

We never want to face the reality that our child could someday come face to face with the struggles of addiction. We wouldn't wish this reality upon anyone and we do our best to prepare them for life's challenges and hope they make the right choices. There is no magic formula or guarantee for preventing teen drug use.

Adolescence is a critical time of important physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development. It is a time when your child is learning how to make important decisions, build close friendships, solve problems and handle responsibility. Drug and alcohol use interferes with teens' ability to learn and improve those skills. Whether it is alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, prescription drugs or other illicit (illegal) drugs, the bottom line holds true: teens that use any drugs or abuse alcohol, put their future in danger.

Help prevent this from happening by opening the conversation with your teen regarding drug risk and avoidance. It may be an uncomfortable conversation or one they want to avoid but considering the risks and implications of not having the conversation could lead to much bigger problems down the road.

To get the conversation started, here are some tips that may help you.

Quick Facts

  • Parents tend to underestimate their teen's exposure to illegal drugs.

  • Poor judgment while using drugs puts teens at risk for car crashes, falls, drownings, violence, unplanned and unsafe sex, and suicide.

  • Drug use can cause serious immediate and/or long-term damage to the brain, liver, kidney, heart, and lung – just to name a few.

Helping Teens Overcome the Risks

The reality of the situation is that, at some point, your teen will be offered drugs in some form or another. Give him or her reasons and ways to refuse drugs when the time comes to make the decision.

Tell your teen often that drug use is unacceptable, illegal, harmful, and wrong. Talk frequently about family expectations and rules about drugs. Clearly state and enforce the consequences for breaking the rules.

Raise your teen's awareness about the health risks and consequences of drug use.

Positive feedback strengthens a teen's decision not to use drugs. For example, “It's great that you have decided to stay away from drugs. That takes a lot of courage!"

Busy, supervised teens have fewer opportunities to do drugs. Encourage your teen to take part in community activities, after-school programs, or get a part-time job.

Get to know your teen's friends. Know where they hang out and what they are doing. Talk with your teen's friend's parents about your “no drug use” rules.

Talk with your teen about ways to handle pressure from friends to get “high.” Teach your teen how to say “no” and to suggest doing something different (safe). To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest.

Get involved in your teen's education. Set rules for doing homework, set goals with your teen for school grades, ask questions about his or her classes, and encourage him or her to read.

Boost your teen's self-confidence and self-worth. Praise his or her attempts as well as achievements. Encourage your teen to express his or her opinions and feelings in a positive way – such as talking, writing, or drawing.

Talk with and listen to your teen. Show that you are there for your teen when he or she needs you.

Help your teen (especially girls) develop a positive body image. Encourage your teen to respect his or her body by encouraging healthy eating, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and other drugs.

If you have an alcohol or other drug problem, help is available. Talk to a health care professional and/or see the “Getting Help” section of our website.

Protective Factors

To protect your teen from the potential harm of prescription drug abuse, you can help him avoid the risk factors, but you can also learn about protective factors. These are factors that make a teen less likely to abuse prescriptions. Communication about drugs and alcohol is a big one. Teens whose parents talk to them about drug abuse are less likely to experiment with drugs. Talk to your teen about prescriptions and make it clear that you expect him to resist the urge to abuse them, even in the face of peer pressure. Parental monitoring is also important. Know where your teen is, with whom he is spending his time and what he's doing. Generally, having a strong bond with your child, being involved in his life and encouraging him to make good choices are all ways that you can influence his choices about prescription drug abuse.

If you think your teen has risk factors for prescription drug abuse, you are probably concerned. The good news is that risk factors do not guarantee abuse. You have the power to change the course and to influence your teen. You can help him learn to make good choices and avoid taking the risk of engaging in prescription drug abuse.

When you are aware of the problem, you can take steps to protect your child.

-This post was contributed by Kristen Polin, MAEd via our non-profit partner, notMYkid


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