Today is the last installment of my three part blog series in which I have been discussing trends in drug and alcohol use, prevalent among the teen population.  Today I will provide advice for discussing these serious issues with teens.

Talking with teens about drugs and alcohol is extremely important but it can also be a very difficult conversation to broach.  Just thinking about having a conversation with a teen about drugs and alcohol can be stressful, so below I have listed some advice to help ease the tension.

  1. Begin Conversations at an Early Age:  It’s very important to start having conversations about drugs and alcohol at an early age.  It isn’t possible to control all factors in teens’ lives such as their choice of friends or what media messages they encounter.  As a result, you may not know when and what kinds of messages are being received by your teen.
    It’s important to proactively educate teens to the dangers associated with drugs and alcohol so that they are less inclined to be swayed by external sources, including friends and the media, when they do come in contact with these serious issues.
  2. Have Multiple Talks: It’s important to begin conversations at an early age and to follow up your conversations because issues that teens face in regards to drugs and alcohol will change as they get older.  For example, peer pressure or the chance that they know a classmate who uses drugs tend to become more significant as teens get older.
  3. Change the Way in which you Discuss Important Issues with children to meet their developmental needs:  For example, late elementary kids tend to think in concrete thoughts while teens are capable of processing more abstract thoughts.  A conversation with a 6th grader may provide the child with concrete reasons as to why drugs are harmful followed by steps to take when confronted by peer pressure.  A conversation with a teen may focus on the effect of drugs and alcohol on academic success, the teen’s family, and future goals.
  4. Look for Teachable Moments:  Instead of initiating your talks in the same manner, look for alternative ways to communicate your message.  For example, after watching a TV show involving drugs and alcohol, ask your teen his thoughts on how the main character’s life changed as a result of using drugs.  Or, perhaps you read an alarming statistic regarding teen drug use in the newspaper.  Use this statistic as a springboard into a discussion with your teen.
  5. Be a Good Role Model:  Evaluate your relationship with drugs and alcohol and analyze your behavior through your teen’s eyes.  Do you smoke in front your child?  Do you come home after a stressful day and mix yourself a large rum and coke?  Do you frequently verbalize your need for alcohol?  It is important to provide consistency in terms of the messages that you directly and indirectly send your teen.