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Talking with Your Teen about Drugs & Alcohol

Talking with Your Teen about Drugs & AlcoholSometimes parents don’t really know how to approach their kids or teens to talk about important issues. They fall back on their own upbringing, relying on that history for guidance.

However, all too often, that upbringing may not have been ideal or act as a good role model.

Conversations with your kids about serious issues — like drug or alcohol use — isn’t a big deal if you’re equipped with the right tools and the right attitude. Below are some tips for talking to your teenaged daughter or son about alcohol and drug use.

Regardless of whether you suspect your teen is using drugs and alcohol or know that he or she is, you can build on the relationship you already have to have a deeper conversation about substance abuse.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you and your child talk openly about life issues?
  • Does your child express comfort in bringing up real topics and struggles with you?
  • Do you feel there is a mutual respect set up between the two of you?
  • Is your teen accustomed to you giving input and feedback on his or her life on a regular basis?

Depending on your answers to those questions, and any other aspects to your relationship that those questions triggered, you can create a plan for speaking with your son or daughter about peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol.

The following tips may also help you when speaking with your teen:

  • Go into the conversation with a blank slate.

    Do not make assumptions of any kind. Instead, really show up and listen to what your child has to say. You may be surprised by his or her perspective, so really give your undivided attention without any expectations.

  • Express your concerns.

    Letting your teen know that you have seen what drugs and alcohol can do to a good person’s life, even if you have not witnessed it firsthand, shows that you are seeing the big picture. For a lot of teens, this moment and this year in high school, for example, can feel like the most important thing in the world. Giving your teen the information, letting them know just how addictive substances are and the road they will lead you down, is important and may be the difference between trying and not trying certain drugs.

  • Offer compassion.

    You do not need to base what you say on what you have done in the past. If you are able to convey that you understand how hard it can be to make your own choices when people are seemingly deciding things for you, then you are showing your teen that you are not judging or projecting your opinions onto his or her life.

  • Do not share personal substance use.

    One study published in the Human Communication Research Journal found that kids are more likely to feel drug and alcohol experimentation is more okay when their parent, or parents, have disclosed their own prior drug use. You are not a hypocrite for encouraging your kids to be drug-free when you experimented as a teen. Do you wish someone close to you had better informed you? Be that person for your child, and leave out your own substance use.

  • Empower your teen to make good choices.

    No matter what your parenting has been like up to this point, choose to empower your teen. Life is hard enough, but lacking confidence and self-love brings teens further from making good decisions.

You can do this. Your courage and strength may save your teen from drug and alcohol abuse. It’s worth the risk!

Talking with Your Teen about Drugs & Alcohol

Kate Green

Kate Green is an addiction treatment specialist currently helping people in recovery at Balboa Horizons Treatment Services.

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APA Reference
Green, K. (2018). Talking with Your Teen about Drugs & Alcohol. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 23 Sep 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.