Talking to your teen about drugs can be a daunting task.  How do you start the conversation?  Should you mention your previous use?  Should you wait to bring it up only if you catch your teen using drugs or alcohol?  We asked our chemical dependence professionals what their tips for parents are and Kelly Kerby provided her top 10 list of how to talk to your teen about drugs.



By Kelly Kerby LMHC, CDP

  1. Listen!  Young people have stress too, and no one likes to be talked at.  Communication is give and take.  If you would like them to listen, than model active listening skills by repeating back what you hear and empathizing.  This may shock your teen, since they often feel misunderstood.    
  2. Spend time together as a family and it will make it easier to talk.  If you are going to talk about the tough issues, you have to be able to talk about the simple stuff.  
  3. Communicate expectations around drug use.  Do not assume that they know what you’re thinking. 
  4. Make sure that both parent/guardians are on the same page when it comes to rules.  Decide on them in private and even if you disagree DO NOT disagree in front of them.
  5. Do not lecture.  Keep talks short and simple. 
  6. You are under no obligation to discuss your past or present drug/alcohol use with your child.  Yes, honesty is great, but there is a time and place for everything.  When you were a teenager what you did was your parent’s business and what your child does is your business.  Your drug use is not permission for them to try drugs and alcohol.  Adult rules do not apply to them.  Keep it focused on them – teens like to talk about themselves anyway. 
  7. There is a lot of news about medical marijuana and legalization of drugs.  Use those hot topics as opportunities to discuss drugs.
  8. If a parent or guardian is using drugs or alcohol they are putting others in dangers of using.  Don’t get defensive.  If addiction is a problem for anyone it is good to discuss it.  Many addicts did not know that they had a family history predisposing them to addiction. 
  9.  Ask questions.
  10.  Always and often praise what they do well.