Parents play an essential role in the health and well-being of their children. When parents are appropriately involved in the lives of their children and when they’ve established trusting, genuine relationships, it’s easier for them to talk with their kids about the challenges they’re facing such as substance use, sexuality and identity, social and relationships issues, social media, politics, equality and prejudice and family values.
These challenges are real, and for a variety of reasons, teens may initially try to avoid these types of conversations with their parents. However, parental intervention when there’s substance use or other harmful behaviors is a vital first step in getting kids the help they need to overcome their challenges.
What can you do?
Build relationships before issues arise. The stronger the relationship, the more likely your opinions will be heard and internalized.
- Watch and listen for cues that your teen is talking about important topics — including questions, opinions and reactions.
- When you notice them talking about these important topics, talk openly with them about the topic.
- Learn to listen. Be willing to listen to and validate your teen’s opinions and ideas even if you don’t agree. They’re teenagers now — it’s important for you to stop “talking at them” and start “talking with them.”
- Help them solve their own problems instead of telling them what they should do or how they should think — even if you’re right. These are skills they’ll need for the rest of their life, so why not start now?
- Have fun and spend time with them outside of your role as a structuring/limit-setting parent. Express your confidence in them and the love you have for them.
What are the signs that your child may be using opioids or other substances?
- Academic decline
- Isolation from family
- Change in friend groups
- Depression or other mental health symptoms
- Change in sleep or appetite.
How to approach your teen:
- Be direct about your suspicions in a supportive and validating way. Example: “I’m worried about you because of these things that I see. I want to talk with you and I want to help.” It’s essential that your teen understands that you’re there to help and not to chastise or punish.
- It’s likely that your teen will argue with you at first — this is normal and expected. If, however, your teen exhibits more serious reactions and you have serious concerns, contact emergency services immediately.
- Don’t give up. Pushback will happen, but that doesn’t mean you stop. These matters are too important. Your teen needs you.
If your child is using opioids or other substances:
- Get help from people and resources. Don’t go it alone! You’re not the first to walk this path, so get all the support and help you can.
- Work together and communicate as parents.
- Remember that people are usually seeking something when they misuse drugs and other substances. Be loving and supportive.
- If your teen is intoxicated, address his or her safety first, including seeking immediate help and table any sort of discussion until later.