October 11, 2012 —

Opening up is harder for some teens than it is for others, especially when it comes to talking about serious topics like substance abuse. I believe that doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your teen aren’t “close” – it could be they are feeling conflicted in ways they think parents “just don’t understand.”

If we want our children to feel like they can come to us with their questions, concerns, or problems, before we even ask, I believe we have to be willing to see things from their perspective. 

Sometimes, teens may feel like they’re “ratting out” their friends if they tell their parents about what’s going on – especially when it comes to risky behaviors like OTC cough medicine abuse. There is a teenage code of ethics.  This code exists amongst friends and siblings. Telling a parent about risky behavior is considered, by them, to be a betrayal. When my younger son began his road to recovery from substance abuse, a ton of information surfaced. This information came from both of my boys. My older son confessed that he knew that his brother’s drug use had escalated but he didn’t know how to tell me because he didn’t want to betray his brother. Fortunately I have my son here, alive and working towards a drug free life, sadly young people are learning a very difficult, life changing lesson by the loss of life to drugs. If only they would realize that talking to an adult/parent about a friend or sibling’s drug use is not a betrayal but a sign of loyalty and love. It is one way that teens can help keep each other safe and ALIVE!

No one wants to be a “snitch,” but teens have to understand that talking to an adult could mean saving someone’s life. Teens may also be afraid of getting in trouble if they have done something in the past that they shouldn’t have. Perhaps they know they made a mistake and want to talk about it but are afraid that you’ll punish them, even though they have already learned their lesson.

So as a parent, how can you create an environment that maintains your child’s trust but also ensures that they – and their friends – are safe? Staying calm is a great start. If your teen says something that surprises you, don’t react by becoming angry or lecturing. Stay calm, ask open-ended questions, and paraphrase what your child is saying so that they know you’re listening to them.

Keeping the lines of communication open between parents and teens is a great way to ensure that medicine abuse doesn’t happen. Tell us how you get your teens to open up on our Facebook page.