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Real Talk: Start the conversation about drugs and alcohol

A mom's perspective

real talk, moms of teens, drugs, alcohol

GET THE OTHER PERSPECTIVE: Click here to see Dr. Paul Schwartz's answer!

One of the most challenging topics for teens and tweens is finding a way to navigate the complicated world of drugs and alcohol. What makes it all the more tricky is many young people have to deal with peer pressure in both these categories over and over again. As a parent, I have to walk the fine line of being clear about the rules, but also being available to my child if things go wrong.

Keep Lines of Communication Open
Open communication is key. Once my three children began spending time away from me, I made sure they knew that they could talk with me about issues to think them through and deal with them. I told them that I would serve as a place to go when they needed to escape peer pressure. I told them if they needed a fall guy with their friends they were welcome to use me. For example, if they didn't want to go someplace the group was going they could change the time for pick up and make it that Mom said it was time to come home. I have had more than a couple of texts telling me to tell them to come home.

My children went through the DARE program as fifth graders. That gave me an opportunity to begin a dialogue about tough topics when my children were still young enough to want to talk to me about them. It also gave them solid facts about why drugs and alcohol were not good choices. I just continue to have conversations about drugs and alcohol now that they are older. I also take news opportunities to ask about vaping and the newest drug trends. We talk together about the dangers and how to avoid them.

I now have three teenagers in the house. We talk about drugs and alcohol on a regular basis. I tell them I know I sound like a broken record, but I know reminders from me are key. We talk about how to keep beverages guarded when in groups and how to be sure they are not given anything without their knowledge. We talk about watching out for friends and never getting in a vehicle if someone has taken anything or been drinking. I make sure they know whatever time it is or wherever they are (and whatever state they may be in), I will come pick them up if that is the way they will be safe. I am always clear that safety comes first and then we will deal with whatever else is going on.

Advice from the Pros
According to the American Addictions Centers (AAC), parents should set clear terms about their expectations. They should not make accusations. Their website says, “Unless parents have hard evidence that their children are drinking or abusing drugs, they should not start the conversation by confronting them with demands, assumptions and accusations. Instead, they should start by asking their kids what they know about drugs and what may be happening in their schools and social circles. Coming from a place of inquisitiveness may make it less likely for teens to be defensive or lie. If parents seem open and comfortable, so will their children.”

The website also points to talking with teens early and regularly. It recommends avoiding scare tactics and pointing to the positives of avoiding drugs and alcohol instead. When all else fails, do not be afraid to seek the help of a professional. The AAC website says, “A family counselor can sit with parents and children and make sure they are having heartfelt and productive discussions, rather than just sitting in awkward silences or getting into a fight that will cause more harm to their relationship than good.”

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