It is common for teenagers to experiment with drugs and alcohol, but if they are not careful, this can be the first step down the dark road of addiction. Although many parents say they don’t want their children using theses substances, few parents actually sit down and talk to their kids about it. 

If you are like a lot of parents, you don’t know where to begin or what to say, but there are ways to approach this topic that can make this discussion easier and more effective.   

Instead of waiting to say something until you catch them in the act, it is important to talk to them early and often. You can start slowly and talk to your young child about the importance of taking medications as instructed and with your supervision. This conversation can be a gateway to more serious discussions and make talking about drugs and alcohol less awkward once they are older.  

You shouldn’t assume that just because your child is older they already know the facts. There is a lot of misinformation out there, especially if they are getting it from their peers. Make sure your child understands that dangers of illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs.  

It is also important to facilitate an open and honest discussion. Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. Ask them what they already know, but don’t interrogate them. Give them the opportunity to talk about their concerns or ask questions in return. If they do ask you about your past experiences with drugs and alcohol, be honest and focus on what you know now as an adult. 

Because they may still experiment anyway, it is imperative to set boundaries. Let them know what the consequences are for drug and alcohol abuse early on. 

If they do break these rules, follow through, but let them explain themselves first. You may discover that they are struggling with schoolwork, bullying, or other problems that led them to drugs or alcohol and can address it.   

Having this type of discussion with your child can be uncomfortable, which is why many parents choose to say nothing at all, but it is important that your child understand the dangers that come with drug and alcohol abuse before it is too late. 

Dr. David Henderson is a board-certified psychiatrist, author, speaker and medical director at Vertava Health of Texas, formerly The Treehouse.

Help can be reached at or the 24-hour helpline at (888) 951-1939.


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