Talking with teens about drug abuse ranks right up there with "the birds and bees" in terms of awkward conversations. However, it’s extremely important that you begin this dialogue. If you’re unsure as to where to begin or are afraid of saying the wrong things, here are some tips to make the drug talk a little bit easier.
- Listen to your teen's thoughts.
A lecture about the dangers of drug use is probably not going to get you very far with teens. Instead, ask them about their own feelings on the subject as well. They may be reluctant to open up at first, but they can usually tell if you’re making a sincere effort to understand their point of view.
Try to avoid asking too many questions, though—being put on the spot can make teens feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Instead, try to phrase your questions as statements, for instance, “I’d like to know what you think” instead of “What do you think?”
- Be realistic but not overdramatic.
Scare tactics rarely work on teens, so avoid trying to spook them sober. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about what negative effects drug use can have on them. Be sincere and share genuine fears you have about them abusing drugs.
- Don’t lie about your own drug use.
If you have used drugs in the past, you may be tempted to keep that from your teen, but this plan has the potential to backfire. If teens find out later that their parents have used them before, this will completely undermine an anti-drug message and could cause them to try drugs out of spite.
- Have multiple conversations.
Talking about drug use shouldn’t be a one-time thing—it should be an ongoing conversation between you and your teen. Making drugs the topic of every conversation might be a bit much, but there are plenty of opportunities to work the topic into everyday conversation. And don’t think that every talk you have has to be an in-depth, serious event. Frequent small, lighter chats can be just as effective.
- Demonstrate that you support them no matter what.
Many teens with drug problems avoid seeking help from their parents because they’re worried about the reaction they’ll have. While you want to convey that any drug use is unacceptable, you don’t want to appear unapproachable. Make sure they realize that no matter what sort of trouble they find themselves in, they can always turn to you for help.