5 Tips For Talking With Your Teen About Using Substances – Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement

Raising children is a difficult task that only strengthens when that child becomes a teen. During adolescence, it is a time of discovering who they are, and they will often test their boundaries. This is why it is crucial to talk to your teen before they begin testing their limits regarding substance use. It can lead to very unhealthy behaviors if they begin using drugs or alcohol at a young age and can lead them into dangerous territory.

Because of this, it is vital to have a conversation since studies have shown that kids with clear rules about substance use are less likely to get into serious trouble. As a parent, you can follow tips to make this difficult conversation easier for you and your teen. 

Make Them Aware of Your Rules

First, when discussing your teens using alcohol or other drugs, you will want to clearly communicate your rules and the consequences if those rules are broken.

Clearly communicating the rules and consequences will let your teen know where you stand, and ultimately it will aid in a safer kid because of the clear limits set. It also helps when those around him are pressuring your teenager into trying drugs or alcohol by using their parents and the rules as an excuse to say no.

Explain Yourself 

It is also important to know that you cannot just throw a bunch of rules at your teenager without explaining the reasoning behind the rule.

As you are laying out all the limitations regarding substance use and giving logical reasons, it will help your teen feel like they can have an actual adult conversation with you. Using the phrase “because I said so” will be detrimental to your conversation with your teen. They need to feel like they can be open with you and ask questions.

A good rule to follow while talking with your teen is to speak to them the same way you would want to be spoken to. Teens can sense if you are condescending to them, and it is essential to know that they will ultimately be making their own decisions on the matter. If you want them to make good decisions, treat them like the adult you want them to become.  

Allow Them To Speak and Listen

Another important tip as you are having this difficult conversation about substance use is to allow your teen to speak and listen closely to what they have to say.

It may be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to share as much of your wisdom and knowledge with your teen as possible, but they need the chance also to speak, ask questions, and open up. Allow your teenager to have the space to express their feelings and concerns.

Giving them a chance to speak can also be helpful in understanding where they are with their knowledge of different substances. You can use the opportunity to ask questions such as, “what do you know about alcohol use?” The more your teen feels like their point of view is valuable, the more they will be willing to participate in the conversation.

Learn Why They May Already Be Using Substances

During your conversation with your teen, it may come up that they have already dabbled in substance use. When this comes up, it will be essential to find out the reasoning without being judgemental.

There are various reasons a teen may have started using drugs or alcohol, whether to manage their anxiety or depression or to connect socially with their peers. Showing your curiosity about the reasoning can help them feel less judged and more inclined to open up. This will also give you a window into your teen’s life, so you know where they need extra support. 

Know How and When To Intervene

Finally, if you learn your teen is using substances already, you need to be watchful and see if the use worsens. Then, you need to know how and when to intervene.

You want to encourage your teen to be honest and open with you, but you also want to communicate that you will help keep them safe. That may mean that you need to look into a teen’s addiction treatment if their use has gotten to that point, or you may need to seek professional help through a therapist.

Talking with your teen about substance use is a delicate dance. However, following these tips will help ease the burden and keep open and honest communication with your teen.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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