Sarah Johnson is the project coordinator for Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change and the author of this entry.
Have you had “The Talk” with your child yet? No, not that talk; the talk about drug and alcohol use.
Too many parents believe that their teen doesn’t listen to them or care what they think. Kids will and do listen. Study after study shows that even during the teen years, parents have enormous influence on their children’s behavior. Parents’ disapproval of underage drinking and drug use is the key reason why youth choose not to use.
Make no mistake – Parents make a difference.
Developing open, trusting communication between you and your child is essential to helping them avoid alcohol use. If your child feels comfortable talking openly, you will have a better chance to guide them toward healthy decisions.
Some tips for talking with your teen:
1. Encourage conversation. Encourage your child to talk about whatever interests them. Listening is a big part of conversation; listen without interruption and be open to learning something new from your teen.
2. Ask open ended questions. Avoid questions that have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Encourage teens to tell you how they feel or what they think about an issue.
3. Remain calm. If you hear something you don’t like, control your emotions and try not to respond with anger. Take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive manner.
4. Make every conversation a ‘win-win’ experience. Don’t lecture or try to show your teen how wrong they are. Show respect for their viewpoint, and they will be more likely to listen to and respect yours.
You will have a greater impact on your child’s decisions about substance use by having a number of talks through adolescence. Learn about your teen’s views about substance use; this can serve as a great ‘lead-in’. Talk about the portrayal of alcohol and drugs in the media as an easy way to dispel myths and provide some reality behind these advertisements, shows, songs, and movies. Communicate your clear, realistic expectations and establish appropriate consequences that are consistently enforced when the rules are broken. When talking about drugs and alcohol avoid scare tactics, instead give your teen good reasons why they should not drink or use drugs.
It isn’t enough to tell them to not use – you also need to help them figure out how. Brainstorm ways that they might assertively handle peer-pressure situations.
Parents are powerful – You can make a difference!