Talking with teens is tricky business—but experts say it’s critical to have open and frank discussions about alcohol and drugs. “Kids say to me all the time that ‘everybody does it,’ as an excuse. As parents and community leaders, we need to change the perception that it’s OK,” says program director Donnie W. Watson, PhD. So how do we do this? Here are a few suggestions of what to say to your teen:
Not everyone smokes and drinks and it’s certainly NOT OK to drink or smoke as a teenager. Be very clear that drug and alcohol use lowers motivation, increases depression, anxiety and social pressures, and is illegal, not to mention a bad crutch to cultivate when dealing with problems.
The teen brain is still developing. Tell your child her brain will not fully develop until age 25 and at age 15, it is only 60% developed. Using alcohol and drugs, of any kind, is taking a major risk on her future.
Share stories from your own teenage years. If you used, tell them how bad it made you feel. If you had a friend who went down the wrong path, talk about how you felt about and/or distanced yourself from that person. Share what you started to do instead of using. If you had social anxiety, how did you deal with it? If you experienced peer pressure, what helped you find confidence?
Ask him about his dreams and help him to become motivated—in healthy ways—to reach them.
Talk with her about how you strive to live in moderation. Model restraint at home and talk about a night when you had only one glass of wine at a party because you had a tennis match in the morning. Share and model how you navigate moderation.
Talk about why some people become addicts and others don’t. Some children just can’t stop at one, as their brains are different (some adults also). Use teachable moments. For instance, if Uncle Randy drank an entire bottle of scotch at Christmas and fell down the stairs, talk to your child about how Uncle Randy, who is an alcoholic, suffered from depression as a child and used in high school and how it made you feel. Then model moderation every time Uncle Randy visits.
Let your child know you are there for him and that you will not punish him for talking with you about friends who use or situations that make him feel awkward. Insist he calls a cab, Uber, or you and never gets in a car with an intoxicated friend. Stress he should never accept a “dab” or substance that may be laced with unknown substance
For information on Torrance Memorial Thelma McMillen Teen Outpatient Program, please call 310-257-5760.