When Is the Right Time to Talk to Your Teens About Drugs?

Even if your kids are far from the dramatic teen years, it’s a good idea to be prepared for your future drug talk. With teens using drugs as young as eighth grade, it’s better sooner rather than too late.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to talk about more than just rules. You don’t want the conversation to end up being just about drugs not being condoned in the household. You were a kid once, and you know that repeating rules causes kids to roll their eyes. Rather than a “don’t do drugs” spiel, encourage a two-way conversation with the kids that focuses on education.

As parents, the conversation with your children about drugs is just as nerve-wracking as the one about sex. When is the right time to talk to kids about drugs and alcohol? While there are some comforting drops in drug use among national data, other trends are a little scarier – like how every day roughly 7,800 teens try drugs for the first time.

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Every day roughly 7,800 teens try drugs for the first time. (NIH) Click To Tweet

The statistics of national teen drug use as of 2014 reports that:

  • Alcohol use declined from 57 percent in 2012 to 51 percent in 2013.
  • 41 percent of teens started using marijuana before age 15. Half of teens reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime. One in three reported using marijuana in the last year, and one in four reported using within the last month.
  • One in five teens reports having a friend who uses steroids and that it’s easy to obtain them.
  • 58 percent of parents state they have discussed the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs and steroids with their teens. Yet, statistics show a disconnect with teens and parents when it comes to talking about synthetic hGH abuse. Statistics revealed a doubling in the reported lifetime abuse of synthetic human growth hormone among teens.
  • For over-the-counter use of cough medicine to get high, the number of teens trying it increased from 12 to 15 percent from 2012 to 2013.

TunedInParents.com - Talking to teens about drugs, parenting tips

Lay the Groundwork of Mutual Respect and Trust

It’s easier to build trust and respect when kids are younger and looking to you for examples of how people talk and relate to each other in the world. Reinforcing that your children can always come to you to listen and talk, and backing that up with early examples, will be important when your children are faced with the temptation and peer pressure of drug use later.

Before talking with your kids, you’ll want to consult with your spouse or loved ones involved in raising them for input on plans for education and action should drug use become a problem. You can reach out to community organizations to self-educate on ways to build trust, prevent and deal with issues of drug addiction, and how you will communicate this information with your children.

Having the Drug Talk: What to Consider

Rather than hosting a lecture with your children, engage them in a conversation. Actively listen to what they know, have been taught in school, and what pressures their peers are already facing.

Asking first, instead of lecturing, shows that you are trusting and not making assumptions. When you are armed with the awareness of what your children know, consider the following talking points:

  • Ask if their friends are using drugs, and how they’re handling that.
  • Discuss how drug problems may be identified and what kind of help is available.
  • Educate them about the fact that abuse of prescription drugs for depression and anxiety is a common form of drug abuse.
  • Tell them they should never feel pressured to abuse performance-enhancing drugs to do better in school or sports. Among teens, the perceived risk of performance-related drugs such as steroids is lowering due a growing normalcy of use.
  • Reinforce that you understand issues of peer pressure, but that drugs have real consequences. Not only does it affect chances of going to college and getting a job, but it also affects real-time performance in sports and responsibilities to family, especially to siblings as a role model. It can also result in death. Be honest if drugs have had consequences for you, as appropriate.
  • You are always there to listen and not judge because their health and happiness is your first concern.
  • Educate them on what to do and who to contact if they or a friend is overdosing or is addicted to drugs.
  • Explain what you will do to help your children. Inform them of the rules regarding drugs, that you will not tolerate drug use and that your plan of action, should drug use be an issue, including rehabilitation, counseling, and specific household consequences.
  • Discuss the motives of drug use, such as stress, pressure, or unhappiness, and the importance of cultivating passions, hobbies, and talking things out.

It’s never too early to talk to your kids about drug use. It’s important that they know you will always be there to listen and that this conversation will continue throughout adolescence. With trust, education, and support, parents and children will be prepared to deal with the challenges that drug use and addiction present.

Tuned In Parents - Jennifer Landis

Contributed by Jennifer Landis: Jennifer is a writer, blogger, foodie, yogi, runner, and mama. She loves drinking tea, deadlifts, and dark chocolate. You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or on Twitter @JenniferELandis.

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2 comments on “When Is the Right Time to Talk to Your Teens About Drugs?

    • Thank you, JeLo, for pointing out that talking to kids about drugs should be a “continual conversation” linked to topics such as health and peer pressure. That takes some of the mysterious deadline and awkwardness out of it, making it more natural.

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