Substance abuse and addiction is one of a parent’s greatest fears and discovering that a son/daughter has indeed been taking drugs, can come as a huge shock. The parent may be overwhelmed by feelings of disappointment and anger. Although this is a perfectly normal reaction, confronting a teenager with angry recriminations is not the best approach to use when tackling this problem. It is much wiser to show a willingness to talk openly about the issue.
Keeping Calm When Talking to Teens About Drugs
The most important thing a parent can do when attempting this difficult conversation is to remain calm and open to the teen’s point of view. If a parent feels too worked up and angry, it is better to postpone the conversation until he/she is calmer. An impossible task? It may seem so at first but it will surely deliver better results for the father/mother if he/she waits a few hours or even a couple of days.
Show interest in what the teenager is talking about. The teen has his/her own opinions on the subject and it is important to respect him/her. The actual use of drugs does not even have to come up in the first conversation. It’s important to try to understand why the teenager has been taking drugs and how he/she feels when they do it. At the same time, the parent should be open about his/her own feelings too.
A natural reaction would be to point out all the risks involved in drug abuse. And rightly so. But chances are big that the teenager does not want to talk about this and will quickly lose interest. Teens have a different set of values to their parents and simply do not see things in the same light. They think mostly in the here-and-now and fail to look at long-term consequences.
Dark predictions and arguments such as future health and dependency issues will most likely make no impression on an experimental youth. Be clear that experimenting with and using drugs has other consequences than merely affecting their health. It could have repercussions on their school work, lead to problems within their circle of friends and family as well as with the police and justice.
The starting point of a discussion about drug use and its repercussions should be the teen’s daily reality. Try to strike a balance between the teen’s world now and the effects of drugs thereon. It is important, though, that the adult sticks to his/her own point of view, and is clear about boundaries and rules. If the conversation becomes too heated, abandon it for the time being and take it up again at a later stage.
Concentrate on the Positives
During a conversation about a child’s drug use, it is crucial to keep sight of the positive things – what’s going well in his/her life, his/her positive qualities. Never forget there is a clear difference between the use and abuse of drugs. Not every user is an addict. Parents should not allow themselves to see their child purely as a drug user and nothing more. Not approving of a child’s behaviour (drug use) is important but make sure the disapproval doesn’t extend to the child as a person.
Discovering that a teenager is using drugs is a very frightening experience for any parent but there is a right and a wrong way to approach this. Keeping the channels for dialogue open is the right way. As difficult as it may be, always try going for this option.