Drug abuse is a far-reaching problem in this country, especially when it comes to teens during these tumultuous experimentation years. The good news is, the use of illicit drugs in teens has declined in the past 20 years, down to 27 percent in 2014 from 34 percent in 1997, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The same can be said for drugs like marijuana, alcohol and prescription pain killers. However, NIDA for Teens says drug overdoses account for more deaths each year than cars, guns and falls combined. As a parent, it’s imperative to talk to your kids frankly about drugs. The challenge is doing this in a way that doesn’t sound like a lecture.
According to Bay Area Recovery (http://www.bayarearecovery.com), choose a time and setting in which you and your teen are both relaxed with no interruptions. Be prepared in your mind to talk about your own experience with drug abuse, if any, to strengthen your case and appear more legitimate. Enlist the help of an older sibling or other trusted family member to provide an added layer to your conversation.
Find out What They Think
Instead of a long lecture with no feedback from your teen, ask him about his views on drugs. If he knows he can talk freely, you’ll get more out of the conversation than you would if it was one-sided. No one wants a boring lecture. Instead, ask questions such as, “What’s your point of view?”, “How do you feel about drugs?”, “Do you see this happening at school?” Check out the nonverbal cues you are getting from your teen and explore those with pointed questions.
Discuss Risk Factors
From genetics to a history of traumatic events, drug use can be more prevalent in some than others. Teens with a family history of drug abuse, those who have gone through traumatic past events, kids with feelings of social isolation, and those who are depressed are more likely to abuse drugs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Why are Drugs Bad?
Rather than use scare tactics, make sure you discuss in rational terms why drugs can be deadly. Use statistics, true stories and even personal history to emphasize your points. Tell your teen why he should avoid drugs, which can affect anything from driving ability and personal appearance to academic life and health.
Use Opportunities as they Happen
When watching TV shows and movies or listening to songs on the radio that involve drug use, whether in a good or bad light, use those as opportunities to open up a discussion. This often works better than a staged talk on the harmful effects of drug abuse because it’s spontaneous and relevant, making it more likely your teen will open up.
Troubleshoot Peer Pressure Situations
Often times, teens may know in their heads that drugs are bad but they do it anyway because they’re pressured by their friends and don’t want to appear uncool. Brainstorm with your child exact wording or phrases they can say when confronted by friends looking to do drugs. Simple phrases like, “No thanks,” or, “I’m all set,” work well. You could also teach them to provide an excuse or diversion such as “My parents would ground me for years if they knew I was doing this,” or “No thanks, wanna go play ball instead?” Your teen should also avoid the places, times and situations when the likelihood for pressure is highest. These scenarios are great in theory, but in reality they may not play out the way you intend. That’s why it’s important to role play with your teen on a regular basis on how to develop strategies for turning down drugs, advises KidsHealth.
Starting these conversations early is key. If your teen is having trouble with drug or alcohol addiction, there are accessible treatment options to help your family.