Teen Substance Abuse: 7 Common Prevention Mistakes & How to Avoid Making Them

All parents will face their child’s teenage years, a vital time at the peak of adolescence when their child’s character truly develops. As with most things in life, the reality is that mistakes are inevitable when raising a child. However, it’s every parent’s job to do the best they can do to prevent their teen from engaging in dangerous trends or activities, such as substance abuse.

While certainly unintentional, there are several mistakes that are easy for parents to make when it comes to the prevention of substance abuse or other risky behaviors.

See below for a list of seven mistakes along with tips on how to avoid making them:

1.    Not openly communicating with your teen about difficult subject matters

It can be uncomfortable to talk to teens about things like peer pressure and substance abuse. However, if you don’t take initiative to have these conversations, your teen may have no guidance on how to handle such situations when faced with them.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: An open dialogue sets the stage for encouraging your teen to feel comfortable talking with you about anything and everything. In addition to having difficult conversations when necessary, try to have daily chats with your teen about a variety of things, such as what’s new in their life or how they feel about current events in the world. Keeping the lines of communication open will make your teen more likely to talk openly with you about tricky situations when they arise.

2.    Instilling overly strict rules and expectations

We all want to protect our teens from unpleasant or unhealthy situations. However, the more you impose overly strict rules and expectations on a teen, the more likely there are to rebel.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: It’s okay to have ground rules, but when sharing them with your teen, make it a two-way dialog. Explain why you feel that certain rules are important to have in place for their important to their health, happiness and safety. If they don’t feel overly restricted and understand your reasons for establishing certain rules, your teen will feel a sense of freedom and respect. This will ultimately make them more likely to follow your guidance and stay on a healthy path.

3.     “Suffocating” your teen with overprotectiveness

Like the mistake discussed above, being overly protective stems from the desire to prevent our kids from negative experiences, such as being pressured to abuse substances. While certainly understandable, this is unrealistic and can be counterproductive.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: Instead of trying to shield your teen from ever encountering a negative experience, share tips for how they can respond if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. This will show your teen that you are supportive in a way that isn’t suffocating.

4.    Guilt-tripping and hostility 

When we see our own children make a disappointing choice, it can shake us. However, if you guilt trip your teen with hostility and deprecating words, you are not disciplining them respectfully. Further, you may be damaging their self-esteem and making them doubt their ability to make smart choices.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: Talk openly with your teen about what happened in a calm and collected manner. Encourage your teen to think about what they learned from the experience and how they can do things differently in the future.

5.    Having little to no trust in your teen’s ability to make sound choices

If your teen doesn’t feel that you trust them to make smart decisions, it can impact their ability to trust and be confident in themselves.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: Tell your teen that you have confidence in their ability to make healthy choices, but keep the door open for communication. Let them know that if they ever want support or guidance in making a decision, you are happy to talk through the situation or simply serve as a sounding board.

6.    Being hypocritical

For example, if you tell your teen to never smoke cigarettes, but smoke cigarettes yourself, you are sending mixed messages.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: Lead by example and hold yourself accountable to your own actions and words. It can be very difficult for teens to follow advice if they know the person giving it is being hypocritical.

7.    Not acknowledging your teen’s accomplishments

It can be easy to focus on the mistakes and failures of our children, but it’s also important to acknowledge their successes and achievements.

How to Avoid Making this Mistake: Your teen needs to understand that while mistakes can have an impact, their accomplishments and ability to overcome failure is ultimately what drives their life forward. Reinforce the significance of your teen’s successes with praise and positive encouragement. This will help to them to learn how to acknowledge and praise successes for themselves as well.

Remember: You can help set the foundation for your teen. Parenthood would be a lot easier and more clear-sighted if it came with a manual, but it might be even better to draw from your own experiences. Besides trusting your teen to make the right decisions, it’s also important to trust yourself as a parent to guide them.

Trevor McDonald is a content writer for Detox Local. He is also a recovering addict and alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help share treatment resources and spread addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.


Take Action

Increased awareness can only mean increased prevention. Join us in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse by exploring and sharing our free resources.