June 13, 2011 —

Talking to your teen about anything other than what they want for dinner can be difficult. Topics such as sex and drugs have always been taboo and uncomfortable for both parents and their kids. However, these talks are important and shouldn’t be left to the classroom or to friends. As a professional substance abuse counselor, I have always advised my clients to do the following when talking to their teens about alcohol, drugs, and substance abuse.

  • Talk to your teen on an adult level. Treat them with respect and bring them into the conversation with a non-judgmental attitude.
  • Don’t threaten, scold or berate them. Don’t tell your teen they are wrong and that they are too young to know what they are talking about. It is a sure way for them to tune you out and just agree to get you off their back. You need to listen to them and what they are saying.
  • Be honest. Tell them that you trust their judgment, and that you trust they will make the right choices when it comes to dangerous behaviors. You have to trust that your teen will not indulge in irresponsible, unhealthy behavior just to fit in. But at the same time, let them know you are concerned they may get swept up with what seems like a fun, innocent, rite of passage happening. It is important to communicate the consequences of drug, alcohol, or substance abuse—including medicine abuse.
  • Know your teen. What’s most important is communicating with and knowing your teen; how they are doing in school, who they are hanging around with, and how they interact with the family. If you are concerned about their friends or grades, ask them why they hang out with these friends and what they like about them. If their grades are falling, ask if there is anything you can do to help that situation get better.

As parents, you have a duty to state your concerns and the consequences that will go with your child’s poor choices and irresponsible behavior. I advise my clients to do this together so no one is confused or under a different perception of what the ramifications are. Most importantly, stay true to the plan with no deviation or your word is like quicksand and it will not be taken seriously next time around. By Carole Bennett, MA

Carole Bennett, MA is the founder of Family Recovery Solutions—a counseling center geared toward the family and friends who are struggling with their loved ones' addiction issues. Carole is also a staff blogger on addiction and recovery for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.