May 29, 2012 —

As a parent, talking to your teenagers about topics like drugs and alcohol can be frustrating – sometimes, it can feel like you’re getting nowhere. But it can also save their lives. According to Partnership at, children who learn about the risks of drug use from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use illegal substances down the road.

For many parents, however, bringing up these subjects isn’t easy. Common fears include being called a hypocrite, coming across as “preachy,” or simply getting shut down. We went to some of the expert blogs for tips on talking to your teenagers about drug abuse so that the conversation can start casually, flow naturally, and be productive.

According to Sue Scheff, author and founder of the Parents’ Universal Resource Expert, parents should focus on conversations with their teens – not confrontations. It’s important to remind your teens of how much you love them, and the kinds of effects drug use can have on their health and their future. Adults should also be vigilant – keep an eye out for warning signs like sudden violent behaviors, or physical symptoms like skin abrasions or bloodshot eyes.

If you discover that your kids are using, it’s important to understand your own emotions too. Carole Bennet, blogger for the Huffington Post, writes that parental shame, denial and guilt are common reactions to potential drug use – but parents need to work through these reactions to figure out how to best help their children.

If you do learn that your kids are experimenting with drugs, Timothy Shoemaker, of Mpowered Parent, cautions to go slowly. Teens may use an initial admission as a cry for guidance, or even to test the waters – so make sure to ask the right questions. “Teens LOVE expressing themselves; even more so when they feel that their insight is valued” (“What to Do When Your Kid Says They’ve Tried Drugs”). Asking the right questions can open a conversation that is honest and insightful.

It’s never too early to talk to your kids about drug use and risky behaviors, so start now. To help you begin the conversation, we’ve put together a list of open-ended questions and conversation starters.