Teenage Drug Use: What Can Parents Do Proactively to Help Their Kids Avoid Drugs?

Teenage girl talking with her mother sitting on grass in nature, flare from setting sun in photo

In an age when digital communication reigns supreme, we have lost the art of personal communication—especially when talking to teens. Sure, we tell them to clean their rooms, not to be late for curfew and finish their homework, but we fail to have the difficult conversations on topics such as drugs and alcohol.

More than likely, it’s due to our own discomfort with the subject. However, getting uncomfortable more often may help prevent your child from falling prey to drug abuse. Statistics reveal that kids whose parents talk to them about the risks of drugs and alcohol are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those whose parents don’t.1

Knowing where to begin can be difficult for parents. The following five tips offer ways that can help you guide your teens on the path to being drug-free:

  1. Talk to your teens and learn their views on drugs: Spare them (and yourself) the boring lectures, and work on earning their trust. Ask their opinions about drug use and find out if they have any questions. Try using statements such as “I’d like to know what your perspective is,” vs. “What are you thinking?”
  2. Educate your teens on drugs and their negative effects: There’s no need to use scare tactics here. Start by finding out what your teen already knows. From there, offer insights into things such as long-term effects of drugs on the body, how people can become dependent on drugs and healthy ways to manage stress.
  3. Establish clear rules about drugs and consequences: Set rules and expectations such as no-tolerance for drugs and what consequences will occur if this rule is broken. Consider creating a contract that allows your teen to phone you for a ride, no questions asked, at any hour if the teen is out with someone who’s been driving and is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  4. Become actively involved in your teens’ lives: Find out who your teens hang out with, what their activities are and how they spend their free time. Get acquainted with the parents of other teens in their peer group as well.
  5. Reinforce good behavior and share praise: Positive reinforcement can go a long way. Remind teens how special they are as individuals and celebrate them regularly, not just when they make good grades or make the varsity basketball team.

Creating an open atmosphere upfront where teens are encouraged to talk with you and you’re willing to listen—without judgment—can keep your child drug-free and healthy in the future.

1 Prevent. Who’s the most powerful influence in your child’s life? You, that’s who: http://www.drugfree.org/prevent