Most people don’t already know that the teenage years are key years for development. These are the years where you experiment with different experiences, create many of your values and opinions.
Unfortunately, one experience that is often experimented with is drug use. 50% of teenagers admit to using both legal and illegal drugs. This can occur at social events, at home in private, or even at school.
While this may be a phase for some, the nature of some of these drugs mean addiction is a serious risk.
Fortunately, you may be able to help your teenager stay away from the more harmful and addictive drugs. Open communication with your teen can go a long way in influencing how they think and behave around drugs.
But, this can be tricky for many parents, guardians, or even teachers. Many readers may still view drug use and addiction in a negative light. This is counterproductive to opening communication with your teen about drugs. They not only have a different viewpoint but may avoid communicating about it due to fear of judgment.
So, we put together a few methods you can use to effectively communicate with your teenager about drug use.
Recognize the risk and triggers
While many teenagers are prone to experimentation with drugs, there are also a few factors that research has identified that put teens at risk of drug dependence. These include abuse at home, whether physical or sexual and witnessing drug use at home.
These don’t guarantee drug abuse. But, if you know a teen who is experiencing any of the above issues, they may need to be given priority when talking about drugs.
Once the risk factors have been identified, and you understand how common drug use is, you can start communicating with your teenager and provide some tips for staying sober.
How To Talk To Your Teenager About Drug Use
Establish and encourage open and honest communication
Before you can start on the topic of drug use, your teen first needs to feel comfortable talking to you. This may be taken for granted by many parent or guardians. But, the reason most of them are surprised if they find their teen using drugs is that there was a lack of honest communication present.
So, ensuring your teen that you can speak with them about anything without fear of punishment, is key. This should help start a frequent dialogue on all aspects of their life, not just potential drug use.
Avoid judgmental language and the “righting” reflex
The “righting reflex” is a term coined in Motivational Interviewing or MI. The method of MI is used to help behavior change in drug addicts as well as many other populations. Research has also shown MI to be one of the most effective forms of communication.
MI terms the righting reflex as the urge many have to explain the “right” way to do things and to correct someone. This often inspires resistance and hurts change. It also encourages a judgemental tone, which causes many to withdraw from communicating.
Instead, you should use an open mind and an emphasis on listening. MI outlines a few tools, including active listening. This is where you state how you think your teen might be feeling and try to zero in on their main feelings and point they’re trying to get across.
This should help promote open and honest communication and allow you to know what your teen is thinking.
Develop systems of support and communication for the outside world
While open and honest communication is important, it will only be so useful outside the home. To make sure you can bring your relationship with your teen to external situations, you should create systems you can use to support them outside the home.
A good example of a system used to support your teen in uncertain situations is the popular “X plan” made by one parent. These can help you offer support to your teen, even when there not around.
When communicating constantly with your teen, it will be impossible to find a point of agreement in everything. So, it’s also important to know how to handle points where you don’t agree.
Many people simply resort to arguing, which would just leads to a greater distance from a solution and a breakdown in the relationship.
Emphasizing that your teen has the autonomy to make their own decisions while reminding them that their decisions have weight that impacts more than themselves instead is key. This will help them reevaluate their future decisions and lead to a stronger relationship.
Reinforce a transparent relationship
As with any relationship, an open channel of communication with your teen must be maintained.This means as much work should be put into maintaining a transparent relationship with your teen as there is in developing it.
This can be done through regularly chatting and meeting up. This can be informal, through coffee trips, or can be organized with your teen’s consent.
Remember, it’s important to involve your teen as much as possible and make sure they’re comfortable with every aspect of their relationship with you. This ensures there will be no resistance or a breakdown in the relationship later on.