If you’ve started to suspect your teen may have a substance abuse problem, it can be tricky to navigate how to confront the situation. What questions should you ask? How should you even broach the subject?
You may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t have to be clinical and it definitely shouldn’t be accusatory. Open-ended questions that encourage dialogue are helpful and will also communicate that you see them. You’re aware of their habits and of the changes they’ve been going through.
Here are five questions that can soften the field for conversation and get to the root of the issue–is your teen using drugs? Or is there something else going on with them?
1. What’s going on with your hair?
Okay, maybe not always in these exact words–but the goal is the same regardless of phrasing: to point out a change in appearance. Are they showering regularly? Are they no longer interested in their beauty routine (makeup, doing their hair, etc.) and uncharacteristically disinterested in how they look? Have they been wearing that same t-shirt for three days straight?
Whatever the case may be, look for the appearance change and ask a relational question regarding that change.
2. What’s going on with your attitude lately?
You have a relationship with your kiddo and it’s okay to ask this question. A change in attitude could be anything from irritability coming home from school to poor treatment of family members at home like their siblings. Isolate specific instances like this and ask where this attitude change is coming from: Why did you get into a fight with your dad? Why are you arguing so much when it’s time to do chores recently?
Look for behavioral changes and changes in their cognitive process. If they hit you with the “I don’t know,” ask more questions because there’s a big one we’re trying to get to the bottom of here–are they using?
3. What happened to your old friends?
Growing out of old relationships and forming new friendships isn’t uncommon in adolescents, but it could also be a sign of larger issues. Ask questions about the kids you’re used to hearing about or seeing that aren’t around anymore. It shows an interest in the relationships your child is keeping (which is always good) and is also a great tool to see if others are noticing changes in your teen.
Have they stopped seeing their old friends because of these new habits? Ask about their relationships. So often we see kids trade their “good friends” for “bad friends” because those are the kids who are also using, right?
4. Why are you missing baseball practice?
Of course, baseball practice can be substituted for any important activity in your child’s life–band practice, work, drama club–the problem is that this activity is no longer a priority for them. It’s important not to be accusatory when asking this question in particular, we just want to see the root cause. Is it general disinterest? Or something deeper?
Look for the things they’re giving up and no longer participating in and ask pointedly, “Why haven’t you been doing your homework? Why didn’t you go to that job interview?” If your question is met with a shoulder shrug or non-answer, just keep asking. Your child’s shame is also playing a role in what’s at stake here. There will be a lot of layers to dig through, so don’t back down.
5. Where is your money going?
If your teen’s money is disappearing or you find them asking for more money than usual, it’s important to ask where it’s all going. If money is going down the drain but they aren’t wearing new clothes, going out to the movies with their friends, or fixing up their car, it has to be going somewhere.
An influx in spending is one of the most telling signs for a possible substance abuse problem and definitely cannot be ignored. Moms and dads, don’t be afraid to ask your kiddo where it’s all going.
Now it’s your turn to get strategic. Plan out how you want to broach these tough questions and be ready to have some difficult conversations. There may be layers covering up the root of their issue, but you can dig down to it. And if you need help with what questions to ask, we’re here to help.
Reach out to us. Please call us at 888-966-8604, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us at clearforkacademy.com. Our team of specialists is standing by to help your family in any way we can.