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talk to your teen about substance use

How to Talk to Your Teen about Substance Use

How do you talk to your teen about substance use?

Some parents find serious conversations like how to talk to your teen about substance use awkward or uncomfortable so they avoid them. However, if you plan out what you want to say it can help keep you on track and prevent unwanted moments of silence.

Here are a few tips when it comes to talking to your teen about substance use.

Be conversational

You do not want to make this a lecture or a conversation based around punishments. Be willing to hear what they have to say and let them know why you want to talk about the risks of substance use. Talk about the peer pressures that they might face and the risks involved. For example, impaired driving, poor grades, losing ability to compete in sports or becoming dependent.

Be honest

Teenagers, like most kids, can sense if someone isn’t telling the truth. If they have questions, be honest because that will also build trust. The more your teenager can trust you, the more they will listen.

Remain calm

The more you are calm, the more your teen will feel comfortable. While it may be an emotional subject for you, you don’t want it to be an emotionally charged situation for them and cause them to shut down. Be clear about your expectations but in a non-threatening way.

Understand the obstacles your teen faces

Biological factors

Genetics play a role because they can predispose an individual to addictive behaviors and enhance the physical basis of substance use disorder. Teenagers who are genetically predisposed may be more inclined to continue using a substance after experimenting.

Social factors

The teen years increase the role of social pressure which can influence the misuse of drugs or alcohol. Peer pressure to experiment or exposure to family and friends who misuse substances can entice a teen to try drugs and alcohol for themselves. Stress from academic, social and/or family life can also affect their choices and studies have shown that teenagers who have high stress are twice as likely as their low-stress peers to use illegal drugs, drink or smoke. Combined with peer pressure stress can be a powerful driver in leading a teen to develop a substance use disorder.

Psychological factors

There are many mental health and psychological stressors that can put teens at risk. The mental health disorders most frequent co-occurring include depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders. All of these mental health disorders manifest during the teen years. Psychological stressors such as childhood neglect, abuse or any kind of trauma can also increase the likelihood of misusing substances as well. If a teen has not dealt with underlying psychological issues, drugs and alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism. Hormonal fluctuations and body changes increase stress and may further weaken their ability to cope with psychological issues.

Focus on prevention

There are many causes of substance use disorder but being aware of the reasons is an important part of prevention.  Despite the large number of risk factors, teenagers can be positively influenced by parents and loved ones to avoid the damaging cycle of substance use disorder.  Become involved in your teenager’s life, offer support, encouragement and a listening ear.  A strong relationship with your child can be one of the greatest protective factors for your teenager.

Treatment for Your Teen

If a teen you know does develop a substance use disorder, they need to receive treatment quickly. There are many substance use treatment centers that specialize in helping teens. Lifeline specializes with teens involved in Clark County Juvenile Recovery Court. If you are in Oregon and Washington seeking substance use treatment for your teen please contact the professional team at Lifeline Connections. You can visit our website or call (360) 397-8246 for more information.

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