Last Updated on December 10, 2019 by Valarie Ward
In Part 2 of this series on Teens, Drugs and Alcohol, we talked about how to identify the warning sings that may be present when children are using drugs. We also shared with you how to recognize those signs. What we didn’t share was how to approach this topic with your children so that you can help them. One of the main concerns of parents when talking to their children or even teachers when talking to students about drugs and alcohol is how to get a truthful response from children about something they know they should not be doing. The fear is that the child may become defensive or feel threatened, which may cause them to shut down or worse, deny they are using or drinking.
To help you have effective conversations with your children about drugs and alcohol, we have pulled on information from the following resources:
1. DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)
The DARE website gives straightforward and practical tips on how to talk to children if you suspect they are using drugs or alcohol. Some steps include:
- Approach your children calmly and openly and do not exaggerate.
- Talk face to face.
- Try to understand each other’s point of view.
- Be an active listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns while not interrupting or preaching.
DARE also recommends the importance of setting good examples for children to follow so your words align with your own actions. Here’s another key point from DARE:
“Say that you do not find alcohol and other illegal drug use acceptable. Many parents fail to state this simple fact.”
2. The Partnership at DrugFree.org
This site is has a wealth of information geared towards four main areas of drug education: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery. What we found particularly helpful for talking to children about drugs and alcohol is their Parent Toolkit, a drug and alcohol prevention resource for parents. The toolkit is actually a full website dedicated to helping adults have important conversations with children at any age and provides information on how to influence children to make smarter, healthier choices. The site highlights: You are the #1 Influence In Your Child’s Life. We agree with this statement. Whether you are a teacher, a parent, an aunt, uncle or a family friend – you influence the children around you and your actions have an impact on what they do in life.
Need help initiating the conversation with your teen about drugs and alcohol? We recommend the Parent Toolkit’s article, If You Think They’re Using: Drug Abuse in Teens 13-18. The article provides 4 steps to take if you suspect your child is using drugs or alcohol:
- Look for the warning signs of drug or alcohol use or addiction. (see both Part 2 of this series on our blog for a detailed list of warning signs)
- Talk to your teen about drug abuse without going on the attack.
- Ask a doctor, mental health professional, or a professional substance abuse counselor for help if your teen seems evasive or if his or her explanations are not convincing.
- Get your family the help it needs.
3. Focus On The Family
Another great resource for handling family matters is Focus On The Family. In addition to providing information about talking to children about drugs and alcohol, the site has guides on how to foster healthy family relationships. When it comes to having the tough conversations about drug use, writer, Glenn Williams, recommends starting an ongoing conversation with children – not just a one time talk. By planning to talk to your children, you can work to make the conversations more effective.
As Substance Abuse professionals, we will add to this point that parents who warn their children of the risks of using drugs or drinking alcohol as a part of raising their children to make smart choices – as opposed to parents who react to problems AFTER they occur – get a better response from their children. The point here is, prevention is the key. Don’t wait until they are already using. Share with them the short term and long term effects of using drugs and alcohol. Here are two Focus On The Family resources to help you do that:
- Focus On The Family’s Rules for An Effective Conversation (Part 5 of a series on Talking To Your Kids About Drugs and Alcohol)
- Talking Smack: Who’s Talking to Your Kids About Drugs and Alcohol, If You’re Not? (a book by Glenn Williams)
What If They Are Using?
Getting help is key to taking the right steps if your child is using drugs or alcohol. Contact our office if you need help right away. We specialize in drug and alcohol education and we partner with trusted resources should your child require more advanced treatment. If your child is in danger or experiencing a medical emergency as a result of drug or alcohol abuse, please call 911.