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Help for Parents: Teen Drug Use and Alcohol Use

The most important thing you can do if you think your teen is struggling with teen drug use is to talk to them about it. Even if you aren’t worried about teen drug use yet, drug and alcohol prevention should start early.

Research indicates that when parents talk to their kids openly about drugs and drinking, they are more likely to develop negative perceptions of teen drug use and less likely to experiment with these risky behaviors. There could be several reasons why your child or teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Five Reasons Adolescents Use Drugs and Alcohol

  1. To combat loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety or depression
  2. To mentally escape from family issues or school trouble
  3. To ease discomfort in an unfamiliar situation
  4. To look cool or change their image/reputation
  5. To fit in with a desired group of friends

The work you put into opening the lines of communication with your child now can make all the difference for their future. Remember: Research shows that parents do have an influence on their teens’ drug and alcohol habits, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Tips for Talking to Your Teen About Teen Drug Use

  • Listen first and respect what they have to say. These are conversations you’ll want to have many times over the years, and if you shut them down, it may be more difficult to get them to open up later.
  • Make your expectations clear. Enforce the message that underage drinking and drug use are unacceptable. Don’t allow them and their friends to use drugs and alcohol in your home, even under your supervision.
  • Teach your child about the dangers of drinking and drug use. Discuss laws, social repercussions and the effects of drugs and alcohol on health. Drugs and alcohol can have serious effects on adolescent brain development.
  • Know what’s going on in your child’s environment. Find out what’s going on during and after school. Ask your kids about their days. If your child isn’t opening up, have conversations with teachers, coaches and counselors.
  • Plan ahead. If your child finds themselves in an uncomfortable situation involving drugs or alcohol, they may give in to using if no back-up plan is in place. First, make sure your child knows they can contact you to pick them up or to find someone to pick them up in any situation – even if they used drugs or alcohol. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and one in 10 high school teenagers drinks and drives. Develop a code word so they can use it over the phone or via text to ask you for help at a moment’s notice. Texting can be beneficial in situations when they don’t want their friends or peers to overhear them or pressure them to use alcohol or drugs. These plans are especially critical when your child is attending events associated with underage binge drinking, like prom.

If you have more questions or are concerned about a teen or adolescent you know, learn more and talk to our experts. We can help you find the resources you need to start informed conversations with your kids, their friends and other parents about topics ranging from vaping to marijuana to alcohol.

A Parent’s Checklist for Talking to Teens about Drugs and Alcohol

Many signs of alcohol or drug abuse, in isolation, may just be normal adolescent behavior. If a child or teen you know is exhibiting a combination of these signs, substance use may be at the heart of the problem.

Am I encouraging open dialogue?

If you’ve been openly talking to your child throughout the years, you’ve already formed a strong foundation for conversations about drugs and alcohol. However, as adolescents mature, even the most communicative ones can close off. As a parent, it’s up to you to keep all lines of communication as open and non-judgmental as possible.

Am I setting aside one-on-one bonding time?

Sometimes your child needs to be reminded that despite the preoccupations of everyday life – work, school, extracurricular activities and family obligations – they still matter and are being listened to.

Am I discussing the dangers of drugs and alcohol in a way that places importance on the topic?

It’s a tough subject, and sometimes it’s even harder to get conversation time with your children. Having a quick conversation in between texts or in the car on the way to soccer practice doesn’t always signal the gravity and importance of the topic.

Am I monitoring and communicating?

Parents walk a fine line between “snooping” and checking in on their child. As a parent, you should know what’s going on in your child’s life – from the peers they’re interacting with to where they’re spending their time. Try to engage with your child’s friends so they can approach you or you can approach them if your child is struggling with substance misuse or abuse. One way to normalize checking in is to stop in to your child’s room to say goodnight as frequently as possible. This will give you a chance to look for signs of substance use and show your child you care.

If you or your teen is struggling with drug use, give Gateway a call at 877.505.4673.

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