When it comes to talks about substance use, a lot of parents find this potentially difficult conversation daunting. It’s in you and your teen’s best interest to have this conversation, so here are a few tips to make for a smoother, more productive experience for everyone.

Be Clear with Your Goals

When it comes to talking about substance use with your teen, it can be easy to default to saying “be smart” or “make good decisions.” These are vague and can mean different things to different people. “Be smart” to you might mean not to drink or use drugs at all, but your teen might interpret that as “don’t drink or use drugs excessively.”

Be specific and upfront about your goals with your child. Saying exactly what you mean will clear up any confusion and let your teen know where the boundaries are set.

Mother lecturing her son while he's turning away from her.

If you want to have a productive conversation with your teen, speak to them the way you’d like to be spoken to.

Resist the Urge to Lecture

As a parent, you want to impart as much wisdom to your kids as possible so they can make smart decisions. However, if this comes off as a lecture, your teen can and will tune you out.

If you want to have a productive conversation with your teen, speak to them the way you’d like to be spoken to. Teens are extremely sensitive to condescension, so treat them like the adults they want to become. At the end of the day, they are the ones who will make the final decisions. By showing them respect and letting them know you expect them to act responsibly for their own well-being and not just yours, they’ll be more open to the conversation.

Let them Speak

Talking at your kid about the dangers of substance use isn’t a conversation. A conversation involves at least two people, so give them a chance to express their concerns or feelings. They might have questions or want to talk about what they’ve experienced. Getting to open an active, equal dialogue will increase the chances your teen will be honest with you in the future.

Focus on the Positive

When it comes to the substance use talk, the underlying message must be one of positivity. The goal isn’t to scare your kids straight by being a dictator. The goal in discussing this subject is that you want them to live long happy, healthy lives. And while it can be a scary subject, conversations like these should be one of mutual trust and respect. Let them know they can come to you any time they have a problem.

Continue to Educate

Just because you had one substance use talk doesn’t mean you’re off the hook just yet. You’ll want to revisit these topics as they grow and progress through school. As each year passes, the temptation to experiment can grow, and peer pressure can get worse as substances become more available. And somewhere along the way, your advice may slip through the cracks. Continue to educate about what they might encounter and how to handle certain scenarios.

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We’re always here to support those who need us.

Let Equity Associates Help

If you suspect your teen might be having substance use issues, seek out a professional and get help. There’s a lot to lose when substances enter a teen’s life, and their future depends on getting help quickly. At Equity Associates, we use substance abuse treatment theories to help your child and can find a practitioner that will be tailored specifically to your needs. We’re based in Ridgway, Colorado, but can help those anywhere in the state. No matter what, we’re always here to support those who need us.