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January 16, 2024

A Parent’s Guide to Honest Conversations About Drugs

As substance use in the younger generation evolves, there’s an even greater need for parents to step in and initiate candid conversations about drugs but navigating these discussions demands a thoughtful approach that balances openness, honesty, and sensitivity. This guide serves as a launch point for parents, offering questions for you to consider beforehand as well as insights on how to handle some of the harder questions your child might have. Our commitment is to empower caregivers and educators with the tools to effectively navigate these difficult conversations, fostering informed decision-making and promoting a healthy approach to preventing substance abuse.

What Will You Say About Your Past?

  • Decide what you and your partner will say about your own substance use.
  • Do you tell them about your personal drug use or do you not address is?
  • How will you respond when your child(ren) asks you what you did when you were younger?

Arm Yourself with the Facts

  • Before you talk with your children about drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, do your research.
  • Know your facts about why people use drugs and the consequences.
  • Help your child fully understand the whole picture of substance abuse to help them make good decisions

Respect Your Children and Empower Them to Make Good Decisions

  • The decision to use drugs, tobacco, or alcohol will ultimately be your child’s.
  • You cannot make the decision of whether or not they choose to use a substance.
  • Discuss with them that the decision will be theirs.
  • Discuss with them the importance of making that decision and how it will impact their lives.

Focus on How to Handle Peer Pressure

  • Be honest about what the pressure was like for you.
  • Give examples of the pressure you faced as a teenager and how you dealt with it.
  • Ask your child if anyone has pressured them and what it felt like.
  • Brainstorm some situations in which your child may face peer pressure.
  • Give your child pointers and advice about how to handle peer pressure.

Set Clear Expectations and Consequences

  • Talk to your child about what to do if they are in a situation where drugs, alcohol, or tobacco is present and they get into trouble. For example
    • They get drunk or high and cannot drive home.
    • They or one of their friends become sick after smoking, drinking, or getting high.
  • Talk to your child about who to call and make sure the numbers are in their phone.
  • Role-play different scenarios that your child brainstorms and talk to them about who they should call for help./

Allow for Questions

  • Curiosity about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco is natural. Be open to questions and work at answering them with honesty and respect.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest with your child.
  • If you are uncomfortable answering a question, be honest with your child.
  • By allowing for questions, you can build trust and by answering questions, you help satiate your child’s curiosity and prevent them from finding answers on their own in an unsafe situation.

Be Nonjudgmental

  • Your child or their friends may have already experimented with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. When talking with your child, be open-minded and not judgmental of what they have already done. If you react to them with anger, they are likely to close down and shut you out.
  • If your child is curious about what it feels like to be high or take drugs, do not react with anger, talk to them about the reasons behind this curiosity and guide them in a nonthreatening way to understand the entire picture of what experimenting might lead to.
  • The key is to develop trust on the part of your child, being nonjudgmental will create a bond and they are more likely to be honest with you.

As a parent, reading through this guide before engaging in these conversations can help you be prepared and ready for any questions your child might have. If you’re an educator looking to help combat substance abuse in the younger generation, then check our professional development course, 135: Substance Abuse Signs, Symptoms, and Strategies.

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