Teenagers Advice to their Parents
on Drug Prevention and How to Communicate Effectively
By Carmen Morrow, Chemical Health Prevention Specialist
Navigating the drug world can be very difficult these days. Ask any teenager and most can tell you the reasons why teens use, the availability of drugs in our community, and even rattle off the health and repercussions of use. However; if you want to see teenagers become passionate, ask them if they feel their parents talk to them about drugs in an effective manner that helps them avoid drug use. Sometimes the best advice to parents comes from their own teenagers.
When talking about drug use, teens agree that parents that initiate open conversations and listen without judgement have the best results. Conversations that place blame or shame behavior are not as effective in keeping communication lines open as talks that focus on drug use as a health issue. Tone matters when communicating and broaching addiction. Teens say they respond best to open conversations that are without threats, dire warnings and accusations. It’s important to note that teens hanging out with healthy friends are motivated to do well and stay away from drugs just to fit in with a group. Teens feel their parents should set clear boundaries and expectations. A clear and consistent message can help deter your teens drug use. Be clear what the rules are, and what’s going to happen if they break the rule. If a teen lives in two different households, parents should agree to the same rules about drugs.
Teens say parents need to understand that drug use and mental health usually go hand in hand. Anxiety and depression are two common mental health issues teens try to suppress with drugs. Drug abuse prevention can start without even mentioning drugs if you address the root of the use. They suggest parents should focus on teaching their children how to build healthy coping skills, emotional awareness and resilience. It’s about building resiliency as many teens turn to drugs to self-medicate, self-soothe or escape. Teens state they are watching and noticing how their parents deal with stress. Parents should try to set a good example of healthy coping skills and avoidance of drugs and drink in moderation. Parents should continue to be active in helping enhance positive connections to healthy peers, adults, organizations, and sports.
Most teenagers agree that the drug talk is very necessary especially in light of the confusion with CBD and potential legalization of marijuana. If a teen is caught with drugs, or even suspected of using, they recommend parents don’t wait to act. They state that while initial drug use may be a voluntary decision, it becomes less and less of a choice as addiction takes over. Parents may have the best buy in when they point out real-life examples. Parents should point out the real-world dysfunction of drug use/addiction in a neutral way, with the cause and effect. Talking openly about who they might know who may have had a problem, or who currently has a problem. Families with a history of mental issues or addiction problems should communicate to children that they are at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem.
There’s good news for our parents and teens that are navigating the drug world of today. The majority of teens are not using drugs or using alcohol, according to the annual 2019 Monitoring the Future Study.