Drug Use Trends Among Youth
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that in 2019 an estimated 35.7 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana. In addition, 2.7 percent reported misusing prescription opioids, and 2.2 percent reported other illicit drug use. Rates of vaping and alcohol consumption were also high, 40.6 percent and 29.3 percent respectively.
If your teen is using drugs and alcohol, what can you do? How can you help them? You can start by opening the lines of communication.
Tips for Communicating with Your Teen
It’s hard enough to talk to a teen who is healthy, well balanced, and getting good grades. How are you supposed to communicate easily with a teen who is using drugs?
The key is to be proactive, positive, and to have some help. When you are able to break through the communication barrier and your teen is receptive to hearing what you have to say, you have a chance to help them stop using. Here are several strategies to try:
Focus on listening
Teens have very strong feelings and beliefs. Even if you don’t think those beliefs are healthy or accurate, telling your teen they’re wrong doesn’t fix the problem. Rather, it pushes them to rebel against you.
Instead, try to listen more. In a neutral way, ask them direct questions about what they are doing. Talk about who they spend time with and what they do. Make a conscious effort to sit down with your teen a few minutes each day to listen to them without distraction.
Validate what they are feeling
Many turn to drug and alcohol use because their peers are using. Is that what’s happening to your teen? Perhaps they are not happy with their actions but don’t know how to change. Tell them you understand. Remember that teens are under a lot of pressure: from parents, teachers, coaches, advisors, and peers. They’re facing big decisions about their future. They may be struggling with low self-confidence or dealing with anger, grief, or anxiety about past or ongoing trauma.
By listening to your teen and validating their feelings without judgment, you may learn what is causing them the most stress and be able to offer resources to help them.
Teens are still children. They fear upsetting their parents (even though upsetting you might seem to be their sole purpose in life!). They fear the consequences of their actions even when they seem to be flaunting the rules. Sometimes, parents need to set aside their anger and frustration in order to communicate effectively. Tell your teen that you know they are using drugs but that you still love them and want to help them.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries
It’s okay to be angry with your teen, and it’s also okay to set boundaries. Create boundaries that protect your teen’s well-being. You may decide to ground your teen or take away their allowance or their car. Instead of doing this in anger, let your anger cool down and then have a calm but firm discussion with your teen about the new rules. Explain your reasoning. Your teen needs to see that your primary concern is their health and happiness.
If your teen is willing to talk openly with you, ask them what they need to feel supported. You might encourage them to see a therapist individually and/or with you. Show them that you’re willing to be vulnerable with them and examine your own role in their choices.
You Don’t Need to Do This Alone
Remember: you are not alone. You can surely find support groups online or in your community. The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a wealth of resources to support parents of teens who use alcohol or drugs.
If you’re having trouble communicating with your teen, working with our expert team of addiction professionals at The Pines, can help you find the right words, tone, and time to talk with your teen. Let our team talk to you and your teen, opening the door for honest and loving communication and healing.