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The teenage years can be a difficult time for anyone, it is a time when people are learning about themselves and are establishing their identities. It is also a time when many teenagers begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol, which can lead to dangerous substance abuse and addictions.

As a parent or guardian of a teenager, it is important to speak to them about substance abuse and addiction, so that they understand the ramifications of using drugs and alcohol. You could ask a local substance abuse rehabilitation clinic for pamphlets or flyers with helpful information and advice.

Addressing this issue early on in their teenage years can help them to avoid the possible issues that could arise. This article has some helpful advice on how to speak to your teenager about substance abuse.


Schedule Time To Talk


Ambushing your teenager with a serious conversation about substance abuse can make them feel attacked and defensive. This is especially true if they already suffer from a mental health issue such as anxiety. Instead, you should set aside time with them that suits everyone.

When you are scheduling a time to talk, make it clear that your teenager is not in trouble, but that you would like to speak to them about drugs, alcohol and addiction. Tell them that during this conversation, they are free to bring up any concerns they might be having, for example, if one of their friends is taking drugs or abusing alcohol. Having an open dialogue will encourage them to listen to and engage with you.

Clarify Values And Rules


Too often, parents of teenagers use platitudes such as, “Be smart,” and “Make good decisions,” without fully explaining what these decisions should be. When you are speaking about substance abuse, you need to make your values and rules clear.

Specific rules, like allowing your teenager to attend a party with friends provided they do not drink, can help a teenager to navigate this often-tricky path towards adulthood. Your values should also be clearly laid out, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol. If you feel that any drug, including marijuana, is bad and that your teenager is not allowed to use it, explain why you feel this way. Once they understand your point of view, their acceptance of these rules will follow.


Always Use Active Listening


Instead of interrupting your teenager with judgemental statements or lectures about substance abuse, you should practice active listening. Active listening means that you listen to your teenager, without interrupting them, and then summarise what they have said and allow them to confirm that you have understood them correctly.

Listening to their concerns and actively trying to understand them will encourage your teenagers to speak more openly with you, especially if they are experiencing issues with substance abuse. Using phrases such as, “It seems as though you are feeling…” rather than, “I think you are feeling…” shows that you are not projecting your own ideas onto them. A conversation that allows both parties to be truly heard is a successful one.


What Is Behind Your Reasoning?


When a teenager is told not to do something without being a clear reason, they often become confused about the issue. This can lead to them ignoring the rules you have set out or not fully understanding the seriousness of substance abuse. Explaining your reasons behind prohibiting the use of drugs and alcohol will lead to a more adult, open conversation.

Your reasoning should be rational and logical. Simply scaring your teenager away from illicit substances could do more harm than good, as they might be tempted to try these substances by friends. Explain to them that any form of substance abuse can be detrimental to their health and that your rules are in place to protect them from these dangers. Not explaining your reasons could lead to misunderstandings along the way.


More Than One Conversation


Speaking to your teenager about substance abuse should be an ongoing conversation. Schedule in one or two more slots to speak to your teenager about different aspects of substance abuse, including addiction and how it can affect their lives and the lives of others.

If you think that your child, or your child’s friend, might be facing substance abuse problems, it is important to speak to a professional counsellor or addiction treatment centre for help. You can speak to Life Path Health about our various programmes, including one which is tailored for youths.