It is important to develop a trusting relationship with your child to have multiple open and honest conversations about healthy decision making and avoiding substances. Some approaches include:
- Encouraging general conversation: Having meaningful conversations with your child about their interests and other things that are important to them, provides the opportunity for your child to teach you something new.
- Asking open-ended questions allows your child to voice his or her opinion on a subject, rather than simple yes or no answers.
- Identify and control your emotions: If your child says something that upsets you, pause and take a couple of deep breaths before responding. If you show your child that you respect his or her decisions, they are likely to listen and respect your decisions.
- If your child approaches you with questions or concerns, especially about substances, make sure to stop what you’re doing and listen to them.
Talking About Substances
Having one big talk with your child about substance use can be stressful for both of you. Instead, have multiple conversations over time. Not only does this take the pressure off, but it also allows you to have in-depth conversations about a variety of topics (i.e., ways to say no, physical effects of substances).
- Ask your child about their views of drugs and alcohol: Asking your child what they know about substances, what they think about underage drinking and substance use, or what their ideas are about why teens use substances will make your child feel heard and can provide a natural transition to talk about it.
- Handling Peer Pressure: Brainstorm with your child different ways they can say “no”. By showing your child that you are there to support them, they will feel more confident under pressure. One example is to determine a plan to leave an uncomfortable situation, whether that is a phone call, a text, or a “code” between the two of you.
- Reasons to Avoid Substances: Providing your child with good reasons to avoid alcohol and substances will help them understand the serious consequences of usage without overemphasizing or using scare tactics.
- You do not want your child to use substances. Set clear expectations for your child so they understand your attitudes and values around not drinking alcohol underage or using substances.
- Remind your child about their protective factors- such as positive relationships with family and friends, excelling academically, or involvement in an athletic team or club. Let your child know that substance use can lead to risky decisions, creating embarrassing situations which can risk these important relationships.
- Underage drinking is illegal. Legal action can be taken against anyone drinking under the age of 21 and can also affect any individuals of age who have supplied or are overseeing this illegal activity.
- Drinking and/or using substances can be dangerous. Drugs and alcohol inhibits the part of the brain responsible for planning and decision making. This means that individuals who drink alcohol or use drugs are more likely to make risky and dangerous decisions, especially while the brain is still developing.
What if my child asks about my own alcohol use?
If your child asks if you drank alcohol at his or her age, be honest. Point out what made it risky for you to drink at that age and give an example of how drinking alcohol resulted in an embarrassing or even dangerous situation.
If your child asks why you drink now or why you can drink and they can’t, remind them about their growing bodies. Adults can drink alcohol in moderation because their brains and bodies are fully developed, allowing them to be better equipped to make better judgments.
Information provided by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration