If you don’t teach your teens about drugs, who will? No parent should ever learn the terrifying answer to that question.
And no parent has to. If you talk to your teens now about the dangers of harmful drugs, they won’t have to learn from experience.
But how do you do it? Keep reading.
Below are the 5 best tips for talking to teens about harmful drug use. If you’re struggling about how to handle this sensitive topic with teens, read this guide.
1. Open Communication in General
Before trying anything else on this list, you must have healthy, open communication lines established in your household. Otherwise, talking to your teens about drugs, or anything else, for that matter, won’t make any difference. Nothing you say to your teens is going to get through to them until you set up, and get them used to, proper communication channels.
Do all you can to keep in touch with them. Text 1-3 positive messages to their phone each day. (But don’t be annoying.)
When you’re all home, tell them about your day and ask how theirs went. Consider reverting to the traditional sit-down dinner. With phones and other screens off, have everyone sit at the same table and talk over dinner.
This all may sound very cliche, but it’s crucial that you and your teens are able to talk comfortably about anything. If it’s all awkward and uncomfortable at first, be open about that, too. Laugh about it together and make it a bonding experience.
Think of it this way. If casual dinner conversation is uncomfortable, how can you hope to discuss serious issues like drugs?
2. Educate Your Teens (And Yourself) About Harmful Drugs
Once healthy conversation is possible, tell them everything you know about drugs. Don’t be afraid to share personal experiences, even if you’ve used before.
Clearly, you’ve learned enough from these experiences to want your teens off drugs. Your past can help them learn, too. Then they won’t have to learn from their own experience.
Beyond this, educate yourself. You can’t teach what you don’t know. And surely you don’t know everything about drugs.
Research the effects of harmful drugs and stories of addiction. For some great educational resources and a good starting point for your research, read more here.
Finally, after educating them about the dangers of drugs, don’t forget about the dangers of peer pressure. Make sure you also teach them how to stand up to their peers and just say, “No.” Teach them not to associate with drug users outside of school and never get in a car with them.
3. Know Where They Are And What They’re Doing
Healthy communication also makes it easier to keep tabs on your teens’ activities. It should be understood in your household that you are to know where your teens are and what they are doing at all times.
Make it a rule that they keep you updated with this information.
Also, encourage them to get join any adult-supervised activities that match their interests. For any non-supervised activities, make sure you always have a way to check on them. And do check on them once in a while.
4. Set Up Clear Rules And Enforce Them
Speaking of rules, be careful with them. Be strict about important issues and lenient about others. Have clear and exact rules about any situations involving drugs your teens may find themselves in.
Your rules should always be well-thought-out, planned with your spouse, and clearly explained to your teens. Never make up rules on-the-fly.
This goes for the consequences of breaking rules as well. The consequences must be clearly understood by your teens and consistently enforced by you.
5. Lead By Example
As with open communication, nothing you say or do will get through to your teens if you don’t practice what you preach. Hypocrisy speaks louder than words, and it tells your teens to disregard anything you say.
Spend a few days checking yourself for signs of hypocrisy, especially in the presence of your teens. Here are a few to watch out for.
If you set a rule, do you follow it yourself? If your teens break a rule, do you enforce it consistently? Are there any behaviors or substances that you do/use addictively?
Teens are far more likely to follow what you do than what you say. Overall, try to be the best example you can to your teens.
If you do notice any hypocrisy on your part, apologize to your teens immediately. This shows them the best example: that you’re trying to improve yourself, too.
Keep Teens Away From Harmful Drugs
There are 20.1 million teens and adults with a substance abuse problem in the U.S. today. Don’t let your teen become a statistic.
If you still aren’t comfortable with teaching your teens about drugs, we’re sorry, but that’s no excuse. You’ll probably never be comfortable with it because it’s an uncomfortable subject. But if you want to keep it from becoming a reality, you just have to do it.
Use these tips to make it easier and don’t procrastinate. Warn your kids about harmful drugs before it’s too late.
For similar reading, check out The Tell-Tale Signs a Loved One Is Abusing Prescription Opioids.