Setting Expectations & Limits

How to Talk to Your Child or Teen

Having open and honest conversations with teens about substance use is crucial for their safety and well-being. Here are some tips for parents approaching this sensitive topic:

  • Choose the Right Time and Setting

    Find a quiet and comfortable setting where you can talk without interruptions. Choose a time when your teen is likely to be relaxed and receptive, rather than during a conflict or when they are stressed.

  • Be Approachable and Non-Judgmental

    Approach the conversation with a non-judgmental and empathetic attitude. Teens are more likely to open up if they feel that you are understanding and not immediately critical.

  • Active Listening

    Listen actively to what your teen has to say. Encourage them to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Avoid interrupting and let them know that you value their perspective.

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions

    Use open-ended questions to encourage more than a simple “yes” or “no” response. For example, ask about their opinions on substance use, their experiences, or their observations.

  • Share Information

    Provide accurate and age-appropriate information about the risks and consequences of substance use. Be prepared to discuss the potential impact on physical and mental health, academic performance, and relationships.

  • Express Concerns, Not Accusations

    Share your concerns about substance use without making accusations. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and observations, such as “I’m concerned about your safety” or “I’ve noticed changes in your behavior.”

  • Explore Peer Pressure

    Discuss peer pressure and ways to resist it. Help your teen develop strategies for saying no to substances in social situations. Reinforce the importance of making decisions based on personal values rather than peer pressure.

  • Be Prepared for Resistance

    Understand that your teen might resist or become defensive. Stay calm and patient, and reassure them that your goal is their safety and well-being.

  • Encourage Responsible Decision-Making

    Discuss the importance of making responsible and informed decisions. Help your teen think about the potential consequences of their actions and the impact on their goals and future.

  • Offer Support and Resources

    Let your teen know that you are there to support them. If they express concerns or struggles related to substance use, be prepared to provide guidance and seek professional help if needed.

  • Model Healthy Behavior

    Be a positive role model by demonstrating healthy behaviors and responsible decision-making. Teens often learn from observing the behavior of their parents and caregivers.

Remember that ongoing communication is key. Establishing a foundation of trust and open communication makes it more likely that your teen will turn to you for guidance when faced with decisions related to substance use. If you find that your teen is struggling with substance use, consider seeking professional help from a healthcare provider, counselor, or addiction specialist.

Need More Help?

Check out our Parent Toolkit if you need help with talking to your child or teen. Remember, you are not on this journey alone.

Mother sits on bed with daughter using laptop
Father and son having a serious conversation

Need More Help?

Check out our Parent Toolkit if you need help with talking to your child or teen. Remember, you are not on this journey alone.