Because talking with your children about substances helps keep them safe. Open and honest conversations with your child about the risks of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs makes them less likely to experiment. It may feel awkward, but your kids are actually waiting to hear from you.
Tips For Keeping The Conversation Going
Nothing makes teens shut down faster than an angry, judgmental or lecturing parent. For a productive conversation now, and an open door for future conversations, do your best to keep it natural and positive.
Start Calm, Stay Calm
Get yourself centered before approaching your child. If you’re upset, try doing some yoga, going for a walk or just taking a few deep breaths before engaging with them.
Instead of having “the talk,” look for opportunities to work your concerns into everyday conversations. Find settings that offer privacy but don’t feel too constricting or distracting, like talking while walking the dog or going for a drive.
Look for ways to praise what your teen is doing right. Express concern—rather than judgment—where needed. For example, instead of saying you’re “disappointed,” let them know you’re “worried.” Praise the good in them, playing to their sense of self-respect.
Ask questions that encourage your child to elaborate and show you’re hearing by repeating back what they said. Don’t cut the conversation short—make sure they’ve expressed everything they need to.
Keep It Fact-Based
Instead of horror stories, stick to discussing real-life consequences and the good reasons to avoid drugs and alcohol. Try brainstorming ideas for situations with them, like turning down drugs, or how to contact you in a risky situation.
Keep It Ongoing
It’s good to have a goal going into a talk with your teen. But if you don’t get there on the first—or second or third—try, don’t sweat it. Getting through to your teen can take time, and it’s often better to come back to it later than to force a confrontation.
Talk Early, Talk Often
Start early, before they’re hearing about substances from peers. Keep an open dialogue about drugs, alcohol, media influences, emotions, and other issues. Explain your rules and expectations. Return to these conversations often as your child grows.
Make Together Time
Consistently showing interest in your child’s daily life helps you build trust and openness. That way you don’t suddenly surprise them with “the talk” about drugs.34 Check in with your teen every day, then set aside family time once a week for longer conversations.35
Grow The Conversation
As your teen ages, it becomes more important to offer detailed and proven facts about drugs, alcohol and other issues. If your teen is looking forward to college or a career, talk about how drugs and alcohol could get in the way of achieving their goals.
Go to ParentUpVT.org to find out more strategies.