There is no easy way to talk to your teen about their substance use. Many teens who are confronted about drugs may immediately get defensive and deny any evidence that you may place in front of them. They may insist that you do not understand, that their actions are harmless, or that they aren’t in any danger. If you have a history of drug use, they may even accuse you of hypocrisy. Why can’t they use drugs if mom or dad once did?
Step by step, we’ll outline some helpful suggestions for bringing up this sensitive topic with your teenager.
#1. Gather Evidence
Your teen may want to know how you discovered their drug use. Otherwise, they may deny it altogether. Having evidence is key to showing your teen that you know the truth. While we understand the hesitation to search through your child’s belongings, we wouldn’t recommend doing so unless you had a strong suspicion that required it. Privacy is very important, especially for a developing teenager. However, your primary responsibility as a parent is to ensure the well-being of your teen. Invading your child’s privacy is a small price to pay to potentially save their life.
Some common hiding spots for drugs may include:
- Desk or dresser drawers, especially in between layers of clothing or stuffed in socks
- Small boxes or pockets, such as jewelry boxes, pencil cases, or backpack compartments
- Under the bed
- Hidden between book pages
- Concealed containers such as makeup, soda cans, boxes of breath mints, etc.
- Inside over-the-counter drug containers such as Tylenol, Advil, etc.
#2. Prepare for Backlash and Educate
If you experienced substance abuse as a parent, your teen might excuse their substance use as a result of your past substance use. It is important to be transparent with your child about the consequences of your past use. You could explain how you tried drinking, smoking, or using drugs to fit in or self-medicate, only to realize that those were harmful excuses. Highlight specific consequences that occurred from your substance use, whether it was getting kicked out of school, losing certain friendships or relationships, or developing medical problems. Maybe your life wasn’t drastically harmed by substance abuse, but you likely know someone else whose life was.
Avoid letting your experience be used as a justification for continued drug use. Be clear about the risks and the consequences that could have happened without early intervention from an adult in your life. Also, emphasize that the earlier your teen starts to use drugs, the harder it is to stop when they’re older. By that point, they could experience significant long-term physical and mental health consequences.
Explaining the Risks of Teen Substance Abuse
The physical and mental consequences of teen substance abuse are real and well-documented. This is especially true in teenagers and adolescents whose brains are still in process of developing. Teen substance use can:
- Damage brain chemicals
- Impair their memories, making it harder to do well on tests in school
- Reduce their ability to feel pleasure
- Harm the development of reasoning skills
- Lead to a damaged liver, hormonal imbalances, sleep disorders, and other mental health disorders
In addition to damaged health, substance abuse can result in academic problems that may lead to suspension or expulsion, damaged friendships, and legal issues if they are caught using.
#3. Resolve to Remain Calm
As uncomfortable as this conversation may be for you, it’s going to be more uncomfortable for your teen. They may feel attacked, judged, or afraid of getting in trouble. However they respond, resolve by remaining calm, even if you’re angry or freaking out inside. This can make a big difference in how honest your teen will be with you. If they respond in anger or denial, avoid taking the bait. Take a deep breath, pause if you need to, and don’t forget to emphasize how much you love your child. Your love is the primary reason for your concern.
#4. Establish Clear Rules and Enforce Consequences
After confronting your teen about substance use, you must enforce rules and establish consequences for breaking those rules. You may forbid your teen to go out with friends until their schoolwork is done or encourage them to avoid certain friends altogether because of their negative influence. Be clear and firm in your expectations. Similarly, be clear of consequences, such as loss of allowance, reduced television privileges, taking their smartphone, etc. Make sure your co-parent is also prepared to enforce these rules and consequences. If necessary, consider sending your teen to a treatment program.
Recognize Addiction in Your Family History
If substance abuse runs in your family, understand that this puts your teen at an increased risk of developing an addiction. This should give your teen a solid reason to avoid using drugs. If you have used drugs or experienced alcoholism, be honest with your teen about how you wish you had made different choices. Remind them that you don’t want them to repeat the same mistakes.
Confronting your teenager about suspected drug use is something that no parent wants to do. This is one of the hardest steps for your teen’s healing, as admitting there is a problem is a big deal. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you and your teen. Clearfork Academy offers a range of therapies, patient programs, detoxes, and even summer programs for teenagers and young adults. We have a long history of helping teenagers overcome drug abuse and achieve long-term sobriety. By helping to heal from the effects of substance abuse, we help your child heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. Your child will be in good hands with our licensed, experienced, and compassionate staff. We also offer family services for parents that need support resources. For questions about our programs and treatments, give us a call today at (888) 966-8604.