Back to school marks a time where many parents face the first conversation about drugs and alcohol that they will have with their children. Knowing what to say, and not say, during this initial ‘drugs talk’ is a stressful reality for parents.
Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently said “by the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug…and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose.”
Drug and alcohol counselor Lyle Fried of The Shores Recovery and Treatment Center wants parents to keep a few tips in mind before this big talk:
1.) Don’t Try to be the Cool Parent. Being the cool parent by discussing your history with drugs/alcohol certainly seems like a good way to connect with your kid. But, relating your experience can have a negative impact. If you make it personal then that might give the teen a thought process that “dad did it once, so I can.” Fried says it is important to be understanding of your teen’s plight, but don’t use your past as an example as a way to connect with them on the issue.
2.) What are The Signs? – Although it’s your kids going back to school, this is a time for you to study too. Get to know the common signs of drug or alcohol use if you are not already aware. This also means continuing education is key. Every few years there are new drugs or drugs that increase in popularity.
3.) Just in Your House is NOT OK – for many parents who may have experimented with drugs or alcohol when they were teens, the understandable belief that “kids will try it, so it might as well be where I know they are safe” is a common one. This is an ineffective way to manage the challenges of teen drug use because it is very likely that getting a pass at home will give your child a sense that outside your home is ok too.
4.) You aren’t a Perfect Parent – like your kids, you will make mistakes, even during the first drug conversation. Following any discussion about drugs and alcohol, take time to think about how that conversation went. Come back to issues you may have missed and take note of any messaging mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Ultimately, give yourself a break. Conversations about drugs and alcohol with teens are not the only factors as to whether they experiment, use, or abuse.
5.) No Punishment for First Mistake – It may be difficult, but know that after you’ve had the discussion, your child might drink alcohol at a party or try pot. The first time is not the time to come down hard on them. Understanding is the key to giving a teen the comfort to keep an open mind to discussing tough decisions.