Talking With Teens About Drugs

Let’s say that you went upstairs to your teenage son’s or daughter’s room right now, and you said, “Are you doing drugs?” Can you imagine the reaction that you would receive, and can you anticipate the response?

No teenager, whether or not they are involved in drugs, is going to answer that question affirmatively. You can have a wonderful relationship with your children, but even the most open and honest teen isn’t going to purposefully get himself or herself in trouble, and that’s what drugs are: Trouble.

Because of that fact, taking a direct approach to this subject probably will not get your anywhere, but you should be talking to your kids about drugs. It is a real problem with real consequences, and no matter how straight-arrowed you think your child is, he or she might be experimenting. And if that is the case, you should be aware of it and prepared to take proper measures to ensure the safety of your children.

You have probably seen the “Truth” and “Anti-Drug” commercials that show parents and teenagers having heartfelt discussions about drugs and alcohol. In reality, things are rarely so simple. Teenagers are just beginning to discover their individuality, and they don’t want their parents interfering with that development. Between school and television and the movies, there isn’t much that your teens don’t know about the “forbidden fruits” of the world, and that includes drugs. That said, it isn’t education that your teenagers need, but rather a dose of reality.

Watch the news and wait to see a report on a drug-related accident, killing or suicide. Use that story as the basis for your conversation; bring it up when you and your teenager are alone, and gauge their response. Don’t be surprised if they catch on to where you’re heading, but you’ll be able to gauge their response to the story.

The problem is that parents tend to be “preachy” when it comes to the subject. It is just like anything else; teenagers want what they can’t have. If you forbid them to take drugs, you have to realize that your order had no effect whatsoever. Kids don’t mind doing things that have been forbidden because they have a strong desire to express their individuality and ability to make choices.

Instead, ask for their opinion. Are drug laws too strict? Are you afraid of drugs? Do you know many people who take them? Do you think that drugs have serious side effects? Initiate a dialogue in which you ask the questions, but your teen determines the outcome. Let them gradually open up about the subject; it shouldn’t be too difficult because teenagers are known for expressing their opinions.

They want to be heard, so give them a voice.

You may not be able to discern whether or not your teenager is involved in drugs. Chances are, they probably have tried some form, but are not active users. Statistics show that most teenagers have tried marijuana by the time they are seventeen, but that less than a quarter have moved on to harder substances. “Weed” is not necessarily a “gateway” drug as it is often advertised; most kids stop there, and never become active users.

If you discover that your teen has no problem with drugs, and advocates their use, then the conversation needs to be taken to the next level. This is the point at which a parent should become concerned, because if they are outspoken about the legality or use of drugs, they might be using on a regular basis. Probe for more information without becoming too intrusive; let them talk, and see what you can find out.

If they are using, then you aren’t going to convince them to quit during this conversation.

Afterwards, talk to your spouse or a close family member, and come up with a proactive plan. Parents are misguided if they believe that they cannot affect the course of their childrens’ lives. You can make a difference and you can affect a change. There are very few instances in which a teenager is beyond reach.

I have found through my years of working with teenagers that logic is the best approach. You may not realize it, but teens are constantly searching for validation and for justification. They want to be respected by their families and admired by their peers, and that is where your key lies. Appeal to their sense of logic, and let them know that drug usage is not just illegal and immoral, but that it’s stupid.

Drugs ruin lives, drugs cause accidental deaths, and drugs kill brain cells.

And if, by some chance, you have found drugs in your teen’s possession, then you need to seek help immediately. Set firm rules about your child’s after-school and weekend activities, and let them know that you are aware of the problem. Tell them that drugs stop now, and be firm about it. You can’t control every aspect of your child’s life, but you can do your best to control what they decide to put in their bodies.

What parents don’t realize is that the trends in parenting might be changing, but that the goal has not. You are responsible for the life and health of your offspring, and it is your duty to do whatever you can to bring them up well. This isn’t about being friends with your teen, which would certainly be nice, but about training them for the day when they head out alone. If you haven’t done your best to prepare them for life after high school and college, then you haven’t done your job.

Listen to your teenager, motivate your teenager, and educate your teenager. That is what a good parent does, and it will help to keep your teen out of trouble.

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