As a parent, there are certain things that are harder to discuss with your teenage children than others—no matter how straightforward the subject matter is. Virtually everyone has a basic understanding of what drugs are and how harmful consuming them can be. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to talk about it, especially with people at a phase in their lives when they face so much social pressure. Ultimately, it’s best to adopt a well-rounded, yet delicate approach to talking to your kids about drugs.
Driving Factors of Teen Drug Use
According to the Bay Area Recovery Center, a prime factor for increasing the likeliness of teens using drugs is accessibility. Your children may be around friends or classmates who use or abuse drugs—from marijuana and cocaine to even prescription pills. And they might either be asked to try it or ask to do so out of curiosity. Indeed, in many cases, teens start using drugs to feel cool or fit in with certain groups. Other factors can contribute to teen drug abuse, such as academic failure, mental or behavioral health issues, history of traumatic events (such as sexual abuse or car accidents), and low self-esteem. Also, be mindful of driving factors within your family; teens can latch on to drugs due to a family history of substance abuse, or even emulate your example if you happen to be a drug addict.
Consequences of Drug Abuse
When talking with your teen about drugs, make sure that you are clear about the harmful effects of drug abuse. For teens, drug abuse adversely impacts many of their major day-to-day activities. Certain drugs, such as marijuana, might affect their ability and motivation to learn anything in class. Drugs also impair judgment, thus increasing the chances of having unsafe and unplanned sex or getting into a car accident when behind the wheel. Continued drug use usually increases the risk of growing drug dependence as teens grow older. And with that, later in life, they can develop serious health problems, including liver damage, respiratory distress, seizures, and heart failure.
Approaching Your Teen Directly
When laying out the consequences of drug abuse, focus on how they affect your teen’s everyday activities—and how they affect him or her. In addition to hampering progress in daily duties, drug abuse also ruins one’s health and appearance. You can also rely on media messages—such as songs, movies, and TV programs that glamorize drug abuse—to confirm your stance. That way, your child does not feel scared; rather he or she feels more informed and comfortable about avoiding drugs altogether.
It also helps to be transparent with your teen. If you have used drugs in the past, be prepared for a great answer if your teen asks about it, with emphasis on the harm such drug use had on your life. If you have never used drugs, you can explain why. However, if you are a drug addict or recently recovering drug addict, bear in mind that you might have a much harder time establishing credibility with your child.
With drug abuse, you always want to err on the side of caution. So, as an additional preventative measure, know what your teen is up to—at all times. Keep track of your kids’ activities and know their friends. Also, make it clear that you won’t tolerate drug abuse in your household, and establish consequences for violating your anti-drug stance. Above all, always set a good example.