A Teen’s Guide for Parents: Inspiring Honest Conversations

Having honest conversations with teens about things like drugs and alcohol can be difficult but, talking about these topics has been proven to help destigmatize and prevent abuse.

How, as a parent, can you foster these conversations at home without making it awkward, ineffective, or unintentionally encouraging the same things you want to prevent for your teen?

To answer this question, I spoke with my peers to get a collective idea of helpful and effective ways parents can have honest, and positive conversations with teens. Here are our four tips:

1. Talk About it!

Don’t be hesitant to start a dialogue with your teen around a subject that’s taboo. It’s important for them to hear your point of view on the subject, it’s a big factor in your teen’s decision-making process—even if you don’t think it is.

“I just feel like it’s good to keep open communication with your kids because then if they do make a mistake, they aren’t afraid to talk to you about it and have a discussion.”

2. Be Realistic and Honest

Sometimes all we want to hear is your honest opinion. Using exaggerated or fake stories may not resonate with us. To build trust, stay honest! Try using facts and talking about experiences you’ve had and what you learned that you want to share with your teen.

“My parents talk about it in a realistic way rather than an extremely distant, hypothetical way. They recognize that I am going to come across drugs, alcohol, etc. at some point and recognize it is important to know what to do in a situation like that.””When my parents tell stories that relate to their experiences it helps because they know what they’re talking about in those instances.”

“I wish that they would be more realistic on the advice that they give, educating me more on certain topics rather than just saying not to do it.”

“I want my parents simply to be honest with me. Rather than it being this taboo thing I want the reality.”

3. Be Natural

If you feel awkward, I guarantee your teen will feel it as well and this might make it hard to have a good conversation.

Do not put a lot of pressure on yourself. Although these can be big topics and important issues, it is really important to understand that teens likely have similar conversations with their peers whether they do drugs or alcohol or not, considering these are glorified topics in our society today.

Take a deep breath and simply explain how you feel.

Find appropriate moments. A busy school night at the dinner table, when your child already has enough on their plate, is not the best time to start a conversation. Find time on a long car ride to a sports tournament, or time on the weekend when your family is more likely to be relaxed.

4. Listen to what your teen has to say

The best way to communicate with your teen is by having a two-way conversation. This is not the time for you to give them a stern talking. Even if your teen is not doing drugs, they certainly may have an opinion on it.

In an effort to keep the conversation from turning into an argument, try asking your teen, “what do you think?” If you are struggling with a child who abuses drugs or alcohol, ask them how much they know about what these substances are doing to their body, and how they think drugs and alcohol will affect their future.

It is important when having these honest conversations that you do your research, so you have concrete facts to support your opinions. This will make it easier for your teen to trust and listen to your advice.

“I wish they would listen to my take on the subject.”

In the end, it can be difficult as a parent to navigate communication with your teen. Although these tips can definitely help, it is important to note that building a trusting relationship takes more than one conversation, and ultimately comes down to being honest, relaxed and approachable around your child.


Maggie M. will be a Junior at WKHS, she is active within many clubs including Drug Safe Worthington, Interact Community Service, Junior State of America and Student Council. As well as having played volleyball for 5 years, she enjoys being involved with the community and building strong relationships with her peers as well as her teachers.

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