Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
Your teen is a talker. You may not always see or hear it, but they are engaged in conversations almost all of the time. Since the rise of texting, chatting, and social media, there are more ways than ever to connect and converse. Being a parent is fraught with new challenges because today’s high-tech ways of talking have removed you from many conversations. How can you prep your high schooler for a drug-free year as they head off or back to high school?
Step number one, be there. It sounds easy, right? Think again.
You are busy. Chances are you struggle to complete your daily tasks. Between work and at-home responsibilities, you are a constantly moving unit from sunrise to sunset. When your teen needs to talk, you might shrug them off. It’s okay; every parent does it. But remaining attentive to their needs is imperative. Here are some tips you can start applying right now:
- Revisit the Conversation: Your teen wants to talk, but you’re in the middle of a task. As soon as the task is complete, pause. Revisit the conversation with them and show them they have your undivided attention. What if they shrug you off? Don’t give up. Revisit the conversation a little later when they have had time to decompress.
- Stop and Listen: Is your task time sensitive? If you don’t have to finish it right then, stop and listen to your teen. Sometimes your teen has worked up a lot of courage to initiate a conversation, and turning them away can destroy that courage. If you can stop and listen, do it. Five to ten minutes of your time right now can make a huge impact.
- Make a Plan: What if your task is time sensitive and you want to revisit the conversation? Make a plan by telling your teen exactly when you can talk without distraction. Tell them that you want to chat when you can really listen to them, and then say when that time will be. For example, you might say, “I really want to listen to what you need to talk about, but I have to finish this. Let’s sit down to talk when I finish in about an hour.”
Remember, your teen looks to you as a role model. Actions speak louder than words. If you want your teen to talk to you, you need to talk to them. Make the time to be there when they need it, and they’ll make the time to be there when you need to talk to them.
Is it weird to follow your teen on social media? It’s only as weird as you make it, so don’t be afraid to friend them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
According to the U.S. Department of Health, as of 2016, 71 percent of teens use more than one social media website. And if that’s not enough to convince you of the importance of social media to your teen, consider these facts:
- Techies: Teens are tech gurus and social media devices, especially mobile ones, are almost always at their disposal. Social media apps have never been easier to access and use.
- Reality Meets Cyberspace: In a 2012 survey of over 600 teens, nearly all said they shared their real names and photos of themselves on social media. Things like school names, birthdays, and locations are also commonly used and shared material.
- Relationships: In 2015, about half of teens were reported to use social media for romantic relationships, from expressing interest in someone to full blown relationships.
The way our teens communicate is rapidly evolving. The houses your teen visits, the friends they have over, the kids you meet at school functions—these are only a fraction of the people your teen is exposed to. The average high schooler has hundreds of friends and follows on Facebook and Twitter. Friending your teen on Facebook, following them on Twitter, and keeping a watchful eye on their statuses and posts can grant valuable insights into their world and help you bridge those pivotal discussions about addictive substances.
Opening the Lines of Communication
Did you know that you have been laying the foundation for your teen to stay drug-free since they were born? From the first time you gave them a fever reducer or pain reliever, you began to set a precedent for when and how to use drugs through visible actions.
Your teen has likely seen you use prescription drugs. They’ve been nearby when you had an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant. They’ve already been exposed to the existence of addictive substances, but have you talked to them about these things? Bridging the conversation doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable. In fact, you can naturally build on the groundwork already laid by using these strategies:
- Talk about Alcohol: The next time you’re out and order a drink, make it a teachable moment. If you’re out with your spouse and drinking alcohol, take a moment to point out how you handle the situation. Something as simple as, “I really enjoyed that drink. Can you drive, dear?” can ignite a positive reaction. Expand on it by discussing why the person who hasn’t drunk is going to drive.
- Talk about Drugs: The next time you read the label on a bottle of pills, take a moment to ask your teen to double check the directions for you. Then, ask them why they think those directions are important.
- Talk about Local Happenings: Social media makes it super simple to keep up with local news and happenings. When an event involving drugs or alcohol comes up, bring it up at the supper table or the next time you’re spending time with your teen. Talking about the impact of substance use helps keep the lines of communication open.
Prepping your high schooler for a drug-free year starts at home. As technology evolves, parenting is presenting new challenges, but you can overcome them. Want to know more about social media etiquette and how to use it as a teaching tool? Subscribe to our blog because we’re going to be covering these topics in the future!