Four Ways to Talk to Your Teens about Addiction

Four Ways to Talk to Your Teens about Addiction

Talking to your teens openly and honestly about drug use is the best way to prevent addiction

by Melissa Riddle Chalos

Talking to your teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse is the best way to prevent addiction. The earlier a child experiments with drugs or alcohol, the more likely he or she is to struggle with substance abuse throughout life. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several risk factors that increase a teen’s chances of becoming addicted to drugs. These include the following:

  • A family history of drug abuse
  • A mental or behavioral issue, such as depression, ADHD or anxiety
  • Aggressive or impulsive behavior at an early age
  • Experiencing trauma, such as abuse, a natural disaster or a car accident
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor social skills
  • A lack of nurturing by parents or other caregivers
  • Trouble in school
  • Having relationships with others who abuse drugs
  • Believing that drug use is OK or having easy access to drugs

Just as a teen’s personality, habits and peer group evolve over time, his risk factors for drug addiction change regularly. Talking openly and honestly about the dangers of drug abuse and your expectations is the best way to prevent addiction.

Getting the Conversation Started

Learning to talk to your child about drug and alcohol use and abuse can seem daunting. You don’t want to accuse her of anything so trust does not become an issue, but at the same time you feel the need to be honest about your fears. Establishing open lines of communication early in life is the key. Viewing your relationship as an open, ongoing conversation rather than a few big conversations is important. A child who knows she can talk to you about anything at any time is a one who will not be surprised or caught off guard when you bring up the subject of drug use.

But no matter your style of communication with your child at this point, the important thing is to have the conversation about drug abuse thoroughly and often. The following four approaches can help get you started:

  1. Begin Your Conversation with a Blank Slate

Assuming that your child knows about the dangers of drug use or has been experimenting makes it difficult to listen to what he or she has to say. Going into each conversation with a blank slate keeps the playing field even and keeps the conversation moving rather than being stalled by fear or judgment.

  1. Express Concerns in a Loving and Respectful Way

Coming into a conversation about substance abuse without love and respect for your child is a recipe for disaster. Expressing your concerns rather than acting as judge and jury helps your child know you are on his side, no matter his struggles. Be firm in your expectations for a drug-free household, but show compassion and that you understand the pressures your teen is facing and will help him deal with any struggles he is having.

  1. Do Not Share Your Personal Substance Use Stories

Although you may be tempted to share your personal stories of experimentation with drugs, remember, this conversation is not about you. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc., children are more likely to feel drug and alcoholism experimentation is acceptable when their parents or caregivers have talked about their own drug use as teenagers. Withholding this information does not make you a hypocrite or liar. It simply keeps the conversation focused where it needs to be. Be the person who gives the right information to keep your teen safe from the dangers of drug use rather than enabling him with your own stories.

  1. Empower Your Teen’s Ability to Make Good Choices

Letting your child know that you believe in her ability to make good choices empowers her to do just that. Teenage years are difficult. When your child knows she is loved, valued and respected by you – that you believe in her – she is more likely to make good decisions. A teen that has a solid sense of self-worth and a healthy self-esteem is less likely to look to drugs for a way to fit in with the crowd. Give your teen the power to say “no.”

Signs of Drug Abuse in Teens

Sometimes, no matter how hard your try to protect your teenager from drugs, you may find he or she is struggling with addiction. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, look for these signs from The Partnership for Drug Free Kids:

  • Lack of personal hygiene – messy appearance, does not care
  • Red, flushed cheeks or face
  • Track marks on arms or legs
  • Burns or soot on fingers or lips
  • Clenching teeth
  • Smell of smoke or other smells on breath or on clothes
  • Chewing gum or mints to cover breath
  • Breaks curfew
  • Cash flow problems
  • Reckless driving or unexplained dents in car
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Locking doors
  • Sudden appetite changes
  • Lack of interested in school or other activities
  • Vomiting
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sores, spots around mouth
  • Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Stealing
  • Disappearing for long periods of time

Finding Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Empowering your teen to make good choices by keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to prevent oxycodone abuse. If you are the parent of a teen who struggles in this area, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline – available 24 hours a day – to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options and where to go for more information.