| Peter Cook
How to have that awkward conversation about drugs
Your teen is just as capable of being deceitful and making bad decisions as you once were. Consider the worst choice you made at their age. Chances are, you didn’t wake up that morning determined to do something that could hurt your well-being or your future success. Your mistakes were made organically, in the moment, and for any number of reasons. Your child's errors will be no different.
When it comes to drugs, however, the repercussions can be devastating and long-lasting.
A failed drug test could see them expelled. Being caught carrying or using could leave them with a record that could potentially haunt them for life.
If you aren’t sure where to start this incredibly challenging conversation with your kid(s), here are five tips to help you stay less tongue-tied.
Five tips for a conversation about drugs
1. Have the conversation before it’s needed.
While it might seem logical to wait for warning signs or a “certain age” to have a talk with them about drugs, your best bet at making an impact is beforehand.
If you familiarize your child with the potential dangers of drugs and the best ways to refuse them without looking “dumb” to friends, they’ll be able to enter those situations knowing what to do.
Children are experimenting with drugs younger than most parents realize, and by the time you’ve found out the hard way, it will be that much more difficult to broach the subject.
2. Be clear about what you expect of your child.
Laying vague groundwork like “I hope you never get into the bad stuff” doesn’t help them define and adhere to behavioral boundaries.
Let them know that if they're caught using, carrying, or hanging around drug use, there will be punishments - and carry them out. You may feel like the bad guy now, but you'll be a source of strength and guidance in the long run.
3. Always give them a way to turn down drugs while saving face.
Peer pressure is just as relevant a cause for drug experimentation as it was in the 90s and 80s. No child wants to tell their friends 'No' or opt-out of what could be a fun social situation.
Let them know you’re always happy to act as the bad guy and demand they come home / answer their phone if they need a quick "out" at a gathering or party. Agree on a codeword or phrase they can use verbally or in a text to let you know they need that "out.”
4. Give them their space but stay vigilant.
Kids, especially teens, need privacy but too much. It can lead to feeling comfortable about hiding and lying drug-using/seeking behaviors.
Keep your eyes and ears open if they’re having conversations with friends nearby. Glance at their text messages now and then. Periodically pop your head down into the basement or their room if they have company over.
Don't go overboard: A teen with his privacy violated is a hypervigilant, sly teen with resentment issues.
5. Don’t turn drugs into a make-or-break issue.
If your child experiments with drugs and is caught doing so, let him know that you’re disappointed, but calmly talk out the reasons why you are. Don't yell, instead talk to him and work out together how he can avoid that situation or choice in the future.
A teen that feels like they’ve “failed” at something is less likely to strive for success with it in the future.
Talk to your child about drugs but learn to listen at the same time - your listening skills are just as critical, if not more, than your child's. If he feels that he can come to you and be honest with you without you losing your temper, you’ve done a great job as a parent and should continue down the same path.
Remember: you can’t change the fact that there are drugs in the world, but you can change your teen’s attitude to it.
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