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Talking to your teen about drugs

Parents often have to have tough talks with their teens. And one of the most challenging topics for many parents is the use of drugs, including alcohol, marijuana and other substances, like prescription medications.

If you are a parent of a teen, you may be unsure how to begin that conversation—or that your teen will even listen. But it's important to let your teen know how you feel about drugs, because research shows that you play a pivotal role in preventing your child from using them.

Here are some tips from experts about how to handle that talk:

  • Decide what you want to say. Have a plan in mind before you talk. Be prepared to discuss what your rules are. Make those rules clear, simple and specific, like no drug or alcohol use.
  • Find a time that works for both of you to have a serious conversation. You want to be able to focus entirely on your child. Choose a neutral location with few distractions for the talk, and be sure everyone turns off their phones and other devices.
  • Discuss consequences. Let your teen know there will be consequences if rules about drug use are broken. Keep in mind that small consequences are better than drastic ones. Be sure to praise your child when rules are followed.

What do you do if despite this talk you think your teen is using drugs?

  • Let them know you have suspicions. Don't accuse. Let them know you're concerned. Tell them why you're worried. For example, you've found drugs or an empty pill bottle. Or you've noticed they've been acting differently.
  • Stay calm. Your child may try to argue with you. They may accuse you of spying on them or of being crazy. Remain in control of your thoughts and actions. If the discussion is getting too heated, postpone it for another time.
  • Remind your child of how you feel. That includes reinforcing that you love them and you don't want them to use drugs.
  • Consider getting help from your child's doctor. A child who is using drugs or alcohol may need to be assessed for a substance abuse disorder.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Categories: Parenting

More topics of conversation

It's OK if you don't always know the right thing to say or do. You can find tools and tips to help your teen stay healthy in our Health Library.

Learn more about teen health