Some parents think that having a single ''drug talk'' with their kids to warn about the risks of teen drug abuse is all they have to do. But one conversation won't fulfill your parental duty.
Your son or daughter is constantly changing, and so are the social pressures he or she experiences. From your teen's perspective, something you said a few months ago about teen drug abuse – or years ago – might seem like ancient history now.
So instead of a single conversation, you need to have an ongoing dialogue. One good way to do this is to take advantage of ''teachable moments'' – situations in which the subject of teen drug abuse comes up naturally. Use these opportunities to illustrate the risks of abuse and to check in with your teen. Here are a few examples.
Your child asks you about your own past drug use.
This may be a question you've been dreading for a long time. If you did use drugs, you might be tempted to lie and say you didn't. Experts say that's a bad idea. All it takes is your teen finding a forgotten college photo in the attic, or having a conversation with a loose-lipped aunt, and you look like a liar and a hypocrite.
Instead of evading the question, answer honestly but without getting bogged down in the details. There's no need to say exactly what you did or when you did it. Focus on why your own teen drug abuse, in retrospect, wasn't such a great idea. Remember, your kid isn't only asking to make you squirm (although that may be part of it); he or she may be trying to sort things out and is looking for guidance.
- I did smoke pot in high school, but it just made me feel anxious and freaked out.
- Back then, I felt like I had to do drugs to fit in with other kids. Now, I see that a lot of that pressure was in my head -- I don’t think anyone would have cared if I said no. I regret that I was weak and didn’t speak up for myself.
- When I was high, I did some things that scare me now. I could really have gotten hurt, or hurt someone else. I was lucky.
Your brother drinks too much at a party and causes a scene.
Some kids seem unbothered by seeing adults drunk, while others are alarmed. Either way, you should talk about it. While you may feel unhappy that your child witnessed something ugly, it could be valuable. For teenagers, it can be hard to connect the apparently light-hearted drinking they see at parties with some of the serious, long-term consequences. You know differently.
- I’m really sorry you had to see that. Your uncle will be, too. Alcohol makes people lose control and do things that they’ll regret when they sober up.
- Your uncle started drinking in high school and it just got worse from there. Not everybody who drinks becomes an alcoholic, but your uncle’s addiction has devastated his life.
- Alcohol has made life really hard for your uncle. He had so much potential, but his addiction made it hard for him to finish school and hold onto a decent job.