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Are you struggling to talk to your teen about drug abuse? You’re not the only one. When it comes time to have a tough conversation, sometimes the most important thing to do is sit down and listen. As a parent or guardian, there’s no shortage of difficult topics to tackle with your teen However, if you take the wrong approach going into these conversations, you may not have the open dialogue you had hoped for. Not sure where to start? We’re here to help.

Here are five tips on how to start the conversation with your teen about drug abuse:

Approach from a place of love

Before the conversation starts, you should approach the conversation as just that — a conversation — not a lecture. Your teen will be more receptive to what you have to say when you let them know you love them. It’s important to let them know that you want them to reach their goals and drugs/alcohol can hinder their growth.

Ask questions

Asking open-ended questions will get your teen talking and allow you to listen to what they are really saying. You may need to reframe your questions as statements to encourage conversation. Instead of “How was your day?” try saying “Tell me about your day today”. The first question will most likely result in a one-word answer, whereas the second allows them to reflect on their day and tell you what happened.

Prepare to listen

It’s easy to get caught up in a conversation, but then before you know it, you’re the only one talking and it turns into a one-sided conversation. Once you ask an open-ended question, just pause. Give your teen a second to think and answer before you jump back in. Try not to talk over them — you want to show your child that they can come to you with any question or concern. Actively listening will establish trust for both sides.

Capitalize on smaller moments

Starting off your conversation with “I know you are abusing drugs, that is a bad thing to do” may not be the best way to establish trust with your teen. Tough conversations don’t have to be a formal affair, with you two sitting down at the kitchen table interview-style. Spark up a conversation in the car, where it’s easy to converse with no pressure. It’s also easy to look out the window and avoid direct eye contact, which may put your teen at ease.

Share your own experiences

As much as things have changed from when you grew up, the pressures of adolescence have remained similar. Mission Harbor Behavioral Health says “Transparency is important here, but in order for the conversation to be effective, try not to glorify your experience with drugs. If you were a heavy marijuana user throughout high school, share that with your child. However, be honest about your experience. Maybe it made you tired all the time, and as a result, your schoolwork suffered or you had to quit a sports team.”

It’s never too late to start a conversation with your teen about drug abuse. Use one or more of these tips to open the lines of communication.


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