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Expert advice on communicating with your teenagers about drug abuse

Expert advice on communicating with your teenagers about drug abuse

Many parents avoid talking to their teenagers about drug use and abuse because they fear an awkward conversation or don’t know the best way to approach the subject. However, especially in today’s society, this conversation is more important than ever. The following tips can make this conversation easier to have.


Do keep it honest

Honesty is always the best policy when speaking to teens--especially regarding sensitive subjects, such as addiction history in the family. Parents should educate teens on the history of addiction and outline the consequences of use.

Do communicate openly

If you have family members who have overcome any kind of addiction, meaning they have obtained and sustained recovery from addiction, open a line of communication between your teen and these family members. This line of communication can facilitate a non-biased and non-judgmental resource for a teen to communicate with regarding substance abuse topics.

Oftentimes, when teenagers (or adults) have a person to talk to who has experienced a hardship first hand, it is much easier to communicate openly and honestly without judgment.

Do utilize resources

Self-help groups and addiction treatment centers can provide resources for teens regarding substance abuse. In addition, youth prevention groups, such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), can be extremely helpful.

Do show your support

Ensure your teenager that, as a parent, you are coming from a loving and caring place. And if your teen is battling a personal addiction, be sure your teen understands that you will be there to support him/her on the road to recovery.

Do set limits

It is vital to set boundaries regarding expectations of behavior with your teen. Be sure to always stick to these boundaries.


Do not assume behaviors are normal

If a teen appears to be exhibiting a behavior associated with drug use, or tends to experiment more than other teens, talk to a mental health professional or other parents to educate yourself about the way your teen is acting.

Do not go back on your word

Once you have set boundaries with your teen, stick to them. Setting limits is the key to a healthy relationship.

Do not believe you can control everything

Being overbearing and controlling can create a disconnect in a relationship, which will decrease the chances of your teen asking for help if he/she is abusing substances. Recognize that, as a parent, you are only human and cannot control the actions or behaviors of others.

Do not take responsibility for all of your teen's decisions

As a parent, you can educate your teen on right and wrong. If a teen makes a poor decision or experiments with drugs, it does not necessarily mean it is a reflection of you as a parent.

Do not allow drinking or drugs in your home

If there are minors drinking in your home, you are responsible because you are an adult. Educate yourself on your legal rights and responsibilities.

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These tips can help provide important guidance for parents. It is essential to take the time to talk to your teen about drug use and abuse. Boundaries are effective when set with loving intentions. And providing consistent messages to teens about addiction can help prevent substance abuse.

More expert advice about Raising Teens

Photo Credits: Afternoon Chat by BdwayDiva1 via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Josephine Healy, MSWPrimary therapist

Josephine Healy is a primary therapist at the Lighthouse Recovery Institute (, a licensed drug, alcohol, trauma and eating disorder treatment center in Delray Beach, Fl., specializing in recovery for women...

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