May 21, 2009 —

Sometimes, it can be difficult to remember what it was like to be a teenager. After all, teens now are worlds away from how we acted at their age. They are technologically savvy and sophisticated, connecting on Facebook or text messaging their friends with cell phones. Sometimes, our teens seem nothing like us, and talking with them about issues like substance abuse can feel more like translating an ancient language than a two-way conversation.

As a pediatric nurse practitioner in a high school, I work with teenagers every day. The teens I treat may not be exactly like I was in high school, but there are quite a few similarities. If, as parents, we can remember what it was like to be a teen and the issues we faced, then we can better understand our kids and better talk with them about important issues like cough medicine abuse. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when you are trying to talk with your teens.

  • Remind your teens that you were that age once, too. One day, pull out your old yearbooks or photo albums and share them with your teen. Use this as a moment to remind your teen that you were once a teenager, too, and that you can relate to what they are facing.
  • Teens are smart—just like we were. Unlike our generation's teenage experience, our teens can find information on a range of topics with just a click or two of a computer mouse. Knowledge does not necessarily lead to wisdom, however, and it is up to us as parents to help guide them by talking with them about risky behavior.
  • There is a lot to learn for all of us. We may not have all the answers for our teens, but the time you spend with your teen to learn the answer can make a lesson all the more valuable, particularly when it comes to substance abuse. Listen to your teens when they are talking, and be open to learning something new from them.

Go into your conversations with your teens with this mindset, and it hopefully will help you find common ground on which to talk with them. It is so important that we talk with our teens about substance abuse, and that we talk with them often. Talking about high school and everyday life can be the first step to having this conversation.

Have you talked to your teens about cough medicine abuse? Share your advice at the Stop Medicine Abuse Fan page.