talk to kids about addiction part 1

Talking to Your Kids About Substance Abuse, Part 1

Drug and alcohol abuse in children is mostly preventable through education and parental support.  Yet thousands of teenagers, are forced to enter substance abuse treatment each year. How can you help you child avoid this? Talking with them about the risks of drug or alcohol abuse can help inform them on things they may or may not know. Giving them the tools they need to resist pressure from outside influences is critical to allow them to make up their own minds. Good communication is key. Make sure you are listening and allowing them to ask questions.

Choose a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted, and set phones to silent. If you’re anxious, share those feelings. The more honest and vulnerable you are with your thoughts and feelings the more likely your kid will be open and honest with you.

Here are some suggestions for talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol:

  • Ask your teen about their perspective. Avoid droning on about how them abusing drugs would make you feel. This isn’t about you, it’s about them. Learning how they think and feel about drug abuse is a great place to start. If they are complacent about how they feel try asking questions that will make them think through the experience of substance abuse.
  • Discuss why misusing substances can be harmful. Avoid trying to scare them. Most kids can see right through this. Instead, focus on how drug or alcohol use can affect things that are important to them, like participating in sports, their appearance, or driving themselves places.
  • Consider talking about external messages. Some media messages can glamorize drug or alcohol use and make it seem like a cool thing to participate in. Talk to your kids about the messages they see and hear how they interpreted them. Teach them to think for themselves and ask, “Is this behavior really “cool,” just because it’s on social media?” Offer your own opinion if you think it will help.
  • Help them plan how to resist peer pressure. Go over how to turn down drugs or alcohol if they are offered. Parents can provide teens with an easy way out. Tell them it is okay to use excuses like “I can’t smoke because my parent’s drug test me regularly.” In some cases, setting up a discreet code so your teen can text or call you when they are in an uncomfortable situation can be very helpful in preventing substance abuse.
  • Be prepared for questions about your own drug and alcohol use. Teens are curious by nature, they will want to know what your experience with substance abuse was like at their age. While these stories can be helpful, if you aren’t comfortable sharing them, then tell them that. Don’t lie to cover things up. Or make up a story that is the ideal way you would want them to do. Be honest, and they will respect you for it.

The Dangers of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Adolescents who experiment with drugs and alcohol put their health and safety at risk. Teen substance abuse has its consequences. Consider the following:

  • Driving while intoxicated. Driving under the influence of any drug can impair a driver’s motor skills, putting the driver, passengers, and others on the road at risk.
  • Increased and unprotected sexual activity. Poor judgment, which can result in unplanned and unsafe sex, is a common side effect of teen substance abuse.
  • Drug or alcohol dependence and addiction. Abusing drugs or alcohol increases the risk of teens developing severe drug or alcohol use disorders later in life.
  • Concentration and other health problems. Teen’s a still growing and developing. Misusing drugs and alcohol can negatively affect teen brain development, and may cause serious memory problems later on. Drug and alcohol abuse can cause damage to internal organs such as the liver and lungs.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about how to prevent your child from using drugs and alcohol as well as treatment for kids struggling with addiction.

Brooke Powell

View posts by Brooke Powell
Brooke Powell is an independent writer who frequently writes on substance use disorder. She has a passion for breaking the stigma around addiction and mental health issues with informative and reliably sourced content. When she isn’t creating content, she loves to get lost in a good book or puzzle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top