Discussing Substance Abuse with Your Kids


Exposure to drugs and alcohol and the consequences it brings is one of the biggest problems kids and teenagers face in today’s world. Unfortunately, one wrong decision can lead to a lifetime of substance abuse, poor decision making, and various health problems. It can even cut their lives short. What makes it even more difficult is that talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol can be difficult for both of you. Kids don’t want a lecture from their parents, and you probably don’t want to bring up a topic that can lead to an awkward conversation. If this sounds familiar, here are some tips on how you can talk to your kids about the realities of substance abuse in a way that is comfortable for both of you.

  1. Have a conversation.

First, it’s important to talk with your kids, not at them. Have a conversation. This means both of you talk and both of you listen. This shows your child that you have respect for him. By listening carefully to what he has to say, you may even pick up on some important information about what he already knows or has already done when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Please note, however, that just because your son has admitted to smoking marijuana or drinking vodka doesn’t mean it’s time to whisk him away to a center for sober living in Los Angeles to combat addiction. His willingness to be honest about experimenting with drugs is a chance to nip the chances of addiction in the bud before treatment is necessary.  You also give him reason to trust you in the future if he needs to talk to you about sensitive issues like drug use.

  1. Use real-world examples.

There is no shortage of stories about celebrities with substance abuse problems and songs lyrics about the topic. However, there are also stories of celebrities keeping sober for ten years and beating their addiction. Use these and other real-world examples of the struggles of substance abuse to highlight the dangers and difficulties. Parents could also discuss how an extended family member, such as an uncle or a cousin, is either currently battling addiction or in the process of recovery, since statistically speaking almost all families have someone struggling with substance abuse. These familiar faces serve as powerful examples of what addiction can do to a person, and what people have to endure in order to recover.

  1. Be honest.

Your child will know if you are lying. That’s why it is important to keep the conservation as honest as possible. Be truthful about your own experiences and what you do and don’t know. Be honest about potential outcomes for people who do abuse drugs and alcohol, even if your instinct is to shelter your child from the harsh realities of the world. It’s also important to be vulnerable. If your child admits she has tried drugs or drinking already, don’t get mad. Instead, let her know how much it scares you and promise her that no matter what situation she finds herself in, she can always ask for help.

  1. Remain calm.

It’s also important to remain calm during the conversation, especially if your child admits that he has already experimented with drugs and alcohol. Yelling, scolding, lecturing, and punishing just tells children that they can’t come to you when they need help when dealing with these issues. Your child should never feel afraid to talk to you about life’s biggest topics.

  1. Have the conversation more than once.

Talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol shouldn’t be a one-time activity. It should be an ongoing conversation that you have many times, especially during their preteen and teenage years. The more your child hears about the topic, the more likely she is to remember it.

  1. Be clear about your expectations.

While you don’t want to lecture your child, you do want to let him know that underage drinking or doing drugs is not okay, even if his friends are doing it. Let him know there will be consequences. Again, remain calm and allow discussion during this part of the conversation.