Five Ways to Prevent Your Teenager from Engaging in Substance Abuse

By Allison Walsh Posted July 26, 2016 under Guest Authors

If you’re the parent of a teenager, your own adolescence likely didn’t involve cell phones, the internet or Pokémon Go. Today, our kids face a whole new set of benefits and challenges as they have unprecedented access to information, opportunities, and unfortunately, drugs.

The good news is that you can take tangible steps to steer your child away from substance abuse. Even if it feels like you are the last person your teenager wants to emulate, studies continually show that teens are far less likely to engage in substance abuse if their parents have open and honest conversations with them about the risks of abuse.

Here are some tried and true tips for helping your teen stay sober and healthy:

1. Don’t Confront, but Converse – There’s a right way and a wrong way to talk to your teenager about drug use. Avoid making accusations. Instead, try to open up the lines of communication via a two-way conversation. Ask questions; really listen to what your child is saying. Even if it feels awkward at first, you may want to begin by asking your teen about their opinion on drugs and alcohol. If they admit that they have engaged in substance use, don’t get angry. Keep asking open-ended questions and strive to understand the reasons why they made those choices.

2. Be Involved in Your Child’s Social Life – No, I don’t mean that you should tag along to the laser tag arena with your 16-year-old and their friends. Rather, simply keep your finger on the pulse of your teen’s social circle. Invite their friends into your home so you can get to know them. This will give you a better understanding of the environment your teen is immersed in every day. It’s smart to get acquainted with the parents of your child’s friends, who most likely share your goal of keeping your kids safe and sober. After all, it takes a village, right?

3. Know the Signs of Substance Use – If you can nip it in the bud, substance abuse is less likely to cause major or continuous problems in your teen’s life. Learn about the signs of drug abuse and keep an eye out for them in your teen.

4. Talk To Your Teen About The Consequences Of Substance Abuse – You don’t have to show a bunch of gruesome images of suffering drug addicts, but you should ensure that your teen understands the effects of drug abuse and the risks associated with using mind-altering substances. Too many times, teens start using because it seems fun, yet they do not consider the long-term physical and emotional consequences.

5. Lead by Example – Plain and simple, if you or another adult in your home is abusing substances, it will send the message to your teen that this behavior is okay. If you are struggling with substance issues, you need to get help for yourself in order to set a positive example for your child. Oftentimes, children who witness their parents abuse substances grow up to do the same thing, creating a perpetual cycle.

Parenting teens is not always easy, but your hard work pays off as you watch your child grow into a healthy, happy young adult. Do everything in your power to keep your teen away from drugs and alcohol. For more detailed information on talking to your child about substance abuse and teen drug rehab, check out this resource on confronting substance use. It’s a quick read and chock full of concrete communicative steps you can take.

If you find that your child is already abusing substances, it might be time to seek support. For free, confidential guidance, visit

Allison Walsh is Vice President of Business Development and Branding at Advanced Recovery Systems, a network of substance abuse recovery programs, including free web resources like Check out Teen Rehab Center on Facebook for inspiration, advice and news about teen substance abuse.