Talking To Your Teen About Drugs

In today’s Covid-19 world, your teen may be experiencing not only isolation from his friends but also isolation from his typical emotional distractions. As a result, being home alone with his thoughts and feelings, your teen may experience stress. And that stress can lead him to reach for a drugs or alcohol, to self-medicate and lower his anxiety.

Many parents would be shocked to learn how plentiful drugs are in their child’s world.

The average age at which teens start using tobacco is about 12 years old. The average age at which teens start drinking alcohol is almost 13. And the average age at which teens start smoking marijuana is 14.

As a parent, you may be tempted to think, “My child would never do anything so risky at that age.”

There is danger in denial.

Your teen is struggling through a prolonged period of extreme stress. Everything is in someone else’s control. His body is in a biological upheaval, accompanied by mood swings and aggression. There are school issues, family problems, friendship pressures, and today’s struggle with Covid-19.

Teenagers are their own harshest critics. They tend to hide who they think they are and act like who they think they should be. Many teens would give anything to shed their skin and start over.

Without a doubt, this is the most dangerous point of a young life. Unfortunately, many teens choose the path of self-destruction to cope with their pain. These children need reliable parents who are empathetic and focused on parenting.

How to start? The following five steps should be in every parent’s playbook:

  1. Take an active role in all facets of your child’s life. Know your child and pay attention. Share stories about your day – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make it a point to get to know his friends and introduce yourself to his friends’ parents. Encourage your teen to surround himself with friends who see and value who he is. Know where your child is, what he’s doing, and who he is hanging out with, every minute.
  2. Discuss drugs specifically. Practice is the name of the game. When you talk with your child about drugs, you are rehearsing for future discussions he’ll have without you. Ultimately, you want him to have readily available answers when peer pressure begins. It shouldn’t be a lecture and you should avoid accusations, sarcasm, and blame. Instead, be open-minded, supportive, understanding, and firm. You’re providing the information he’ll use to form his own opinions and make decisions.
  3. Lead by example. A lack of restraint can lead you to inadvertently introduce your children to drugs. Creating a positive environment for your teen requires never abusing alcohol or other drugs yourself.
  4. Set clear rules and enforce them with swift, consistent, and meaningful punishment. The key is that everyone needs to know the rules. A great way to do that is to involve your child in making the rules. Then, he’ll be more likely to follow the rules because he is invested in them. The consequences should be fair and appropriate to the crime; no punishment should last more than a week.
  5. Use “youthful indiscretions” as teachable moments. Teens ultimately make their own choices and, despite your best efforts, they sometimes will stray. You have to be your teen’s advocate no matter what. Treat these moments as opportunities to learn about your child’s struggles, express your unconditional love, and provide firm guidance.

By reading this, you have admitted to yourself that drugs are plentiful in your child’s world and there’s a chance – even if it’s a small one – that your teen is among the majority who may use drugs. I applaud your honesty and courage. I also know you may want to place blame – whether on the media, school, your teen’s friends, and even yourself. But that’s the easy way out. Instead, determine what you can do directly and get to work.

As parents, you are entitled to parent. That means knowing all about your child so you can detect the significance of small changes. It means paying attention to what’s happening in your child’s life, as well as, knowing how your child perceives your life. Finally, it means taking action with an emphasis on being reliable, empathetic, and meeting your child’s needs.