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How to Talk to a Child About Substance Abuse

Discussion in 'Helping an Addicted Child' started by trex, Sep 24, 2014.

  1. trex

    trex Member

    Hello. I'm looking for advice on talking to my teenage son who is 16. I suspect he is drinking but I don't know how to talk to him. Any advice?

    ~ Yolanda
  2. Jen S.

    Jen S. Guest

    Hi Yolanda,
    I'm sorry to hear this, but good for you for being on the lookout as a loving parent.
    The most important thing to remember is that there is help available.
    Most teenage boys are not in a "share details of my life with mom" mode, but I would suggest talking to him in a supportive/curious way rather than a judging/suspicious one. There are more specific conversation-starting suggestions here.
  3. AFKATafcar

    AFKATafcar Community Champion

    I would have to agree with Jen. If you approach him about the subject in a judgmental manner, then he's only going to close up and not want to talk about it. Is he under any sort of stress in his social or academic life? Does he hang out with perhaps not the best crowd? He could simply be drinking due to peer pressure.

    Just make sure that you've got some concrete proof to back up your suspicions. This is something that you need to start dealing with sooner rather than later, if your suspicions are true.
    Jen S. likes this.
  4. Peninha

    Peninha Community Champion

    The main question here is, how much is he drinking? If he's drinking just once or twice per week I don't feel that's a big deal, but if it's on a daily basis I feel you should try to approach him and talk to him, in a way he can open up to you...
  5. shilpa123

    shilpa123 Member

    It is very important to decide when to start talking and how to approach the child. As a teenager, it is very easy to start getting attracted to things like drinking and all the other thing that one has not tried. He must be made to understand the importance of how badly the health is affected by drinking on a regular basis and how difficult it is to overcome such addictions. Giving a detailed description of alcohol helps the boy to properly understand the situation thoroughly.
  6. Allen24

    Allen24 Active Contributor

    When I was a teen my parents told me that they didn't want me drinking but if I needed help or got into trouble (at a party with no DD, for instance) and needed their assistance they wouldn't punish me. This helped open the lines of communication regarding alcohol. I felt like I could talk to them about it if needed.

    I agree with others here that you should try having a casual conversation about drinking. If he denies it and you feel that he is, perhaps have a more formal discussion he is prepared for. Don't spring it on him. When you talk, let him know that it's normal to experiment or feel social pressure and see where that leads. He might feel more comfortable admitting that he has tried alcohol.
  7. Muraki

    Muraki Member

    I'm sorry to hear that.

    I would suggest you stay calm trough when you start the conversation and try to stay calm. Be the person he can rely on even in such a situation and let it be known trough your voice and choice of words. Surprise him whit it and make him comfortable enough to talk about it casually. Don't get mad just make it clear that he understands that it is wrond and what kind of consequences it may have.

    It may not be much but I hope it helped.
  8. vennybunny

    vennybunny Member

    Hi, trex. I hope I can give you even a little bit of help. :)

    When I started drinking, the thing I enjoyed most about it was it was forbidden. I lived in a household that condemned alcohol of all kinds. Unfortunately this started a descent on a slippery slope that took a big toll in my life.

    I've read all of the advice others have posted and I agree with them all. I just want to add that sometimes, forbidden things are made even more attractive than usual. Please be careful about making him understand why it can be dangerous, instead of just banning it without reason.

    I would actually give it a bit of time, first. See if he grows out of it. Be there to catch him if he gets in trouble, and be prepared to take action if needed, but it might be something he can deal with on his own. :)

    Good luck! I admire parents like you.
  9. Hi Yolanda. In my opinion you should approach him in a positive way and not make it sound like you are interrogating him. I'm 20 years old now, but when I was a teenager every weekend there was party with alcohol and all types of drugs. People would get intoxicated to the point where they could barely walk and puke everywhere. My point is that every teenager has drunk some amount of alcohol, so it's not that harmful unless you suspect that he is consuming alarming amounts of it. If you suspect that your son is drinking just talk to him about the effects and outcomes of alcohol and see if he admits to drinking. You could even share a story with him of how you did some crazy things when you were his age, but its okay as long as it doesn't permanently mess up your life. Overall, I think in this this situation you should try the "I'm your friend not your mother" approach as he will feel more comfortable opening up to you. I hope everything turns out well!
  10. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    Yolanda,
    Having these types of conversations can be difficult with teens and preteens.

    The first thing I would recommend is that you sit down and make a list of the things that you would like to talk about. It's important that you know exactly where you stand, and what the consequences for these actions will be. Once you are comfortable with what you want to talk about, and how you want to deal with the situation, then you can communicate with your teen effectively.

    I would suggest bringing up the situation in a casual manner first. Start my using non-accusatory statements & questions. "I know you're drinking" is a statement that will cause immediate backlash, instead try asking your teen what they already know about alcohol and underage drinking. Then move into what your specific expectations are, i.e. NO DRINKING.

    Next, I would talk about the legal, and physical aspects of drinking, and what that could mean to your teen. I would still avoid consequence talk at this point, and remember to respect what they say, even if it is wrong. Take your time to correct misinformation, without making your teen feel inadequate or defensive. I would also avoid the "shock & awe" approach. While some teens may be off put by shocking images or statistics, you have to remember that many teens feel "invincible" at that age.

    Finally, I would say that it's important to listen to the subtlety of the conversation. Listen to information that might be about "a friend" and ask your teen what they would do in those situations. Giving options, or even the illusion of choice, will usually disarm some of the more defiant teens. Remember to keep your own emotions in check, and if things do start to get "heated" you can always come back to the conversation later.

    The bottom line here is that communication is key. If you're arguing, fighting, or having a power struggle, not much is happening in the way of real communication.
    dejanee22 likes this.
  11. maryannballeras

    maryannballeras Senior Contributor

    I suggest that you talk to him just like a friend would, and not really scold him. Tell him that you understand how he feels because you've been in that age yourself. That should work.
  12. tasha

    tasha Community Listener Community Listener

    I think the best way to do it is to casually sit him down and ask him. If he denies it and you know that he is drinking just simply tell him about the dangers of alcohol and the effect it has on other people. Dont shout, dont say do not do it just simply say that it would be disappointing if he throws away a bright future at such an early age.
    He will probably deny it or tell you that everyone is doing it but you have to let him know that respect from peers comes from learning to say no.
  13. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    I'm not sure I agree with the "be a friend" approach here. I certainly don't think it's a good idea to scold or lecture until you are blue in the face, but you're not a friend, you're a parent. Children that recognize their parents as authority figures are more likely to implement that figures rules and regulations. Make no mistake as to what your rules and expectations are. You can do that in a caring and "friendly" way, but at the end of the day, they need to know that you mean business.
    tasha likes this.
  14. Daniel Lucky

    Daniel Lucky Active Contributor

    Honestly what I would do as a parent, I would get him/her inside the car and take them for a drive and begin to talk to them. And as I am driving them around the city I would take them to where all the drunks and homeless live or hangout. I would show them the type of life style that they would eventually share because you can only be a functioning addict for so long until you lose everything and end up homeless. I would express that life is short lived when you continue down the path of alcoholism. Last I would stop by our church and pray and ask God to deliver him and continue to pray for him even after we leave. Then I would become more involved in his social life staying on top of what he is doing whether or not he liked it because out of my love I want the best.
  15. stagsonline

    stagsonline Active Contributor

    Do you have a good open relationship with your child? If so, it could be much easier to talk about it. Approach the issue just like you do in normal conversations you have. Don't make the issue so sensitive because it makes the teen feel pressured or accused. Remember that you are not sure whether or not he is drinking. You simply want to clarify if he is. Expect anything during the conversation. If he admits, what will you do?

    To avoid creating a rift between you and your child, be ready to offer necessary guidance and advice regarding alcohol use. Get to know more about the kids he hangs out with, what he does during social outings and find out whether he is having personal issues bothering him. Is he stressed? Is he spending a lot of time alone? Is he keeping a distance from you lately? These could be signs that something is not right. Behavioral change in teens often indicates that something is bothering him.
  16. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    Stagsonline asks a really important question. What will you do if he admits it? Now that's something to really think about ahead of time. You don't want to go in there thinking the worst but not really willing to believe it. If he admits it, personally, I think you should try to maintain your composure, thank him for his honesty, and then talk about how this is going to change, and what your expectations are. Have a plan in motion BEFORE you talk, so that you don't have to put things on "hold" while figuring it out yourself.
  17. Daniel Lucky

    Daniel Lucky Active Contributor

    I feel if the person with the addiction admits that they do have a problem then they just completed the first step. Accepting that we have a problem is something many can't do and others find hard to do and if that person does that, they are showing they really want the help. So now you begin to ask well what can I do to help. Also find out what has been going on in there life to cause them to use. It is always a good thing when an addict admits and realizes that they have a problem, there basically saying I am ready for step 2 which is treatment.
  18. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    I agree Daniel. If a person takes that first step, I don't want to say they should be rewarded, but honestly deserves some recognition here. They are clearly struggling, and they need someone to help them, not remind them they are doing something wrong.
  19. jack21

    jack21 Member

    I think that at first, one should empathise with the child. By this I mean that you explain to him that you were once his age and understand how appealing it seems to go out with your friends, get drunk and have fun. Explain that such thoughts are normal, but there are limits. From there you can go to the negative effects of alcohol and the consequences brought along by drinking problems both to the individual, and also to those around him. I am quite young myself and if I were in such a situation, that is how I would want to be talked to.
  20. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    That's a good observation. How would you like to be talked too? You know your teen more than most, their personality type, the way they respond to situations, and that has to play a factor in how you are going to communicate effectively with your teen.