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How to Talk to your Teen about Drugs and Alcohol

Updated on February 11, 2013
In the UK research shows a steady increae in younger teen drinking and girls being most at risk for binge drinking
In the UK research shows a steady increae in younger teen drinking and girls being most at risk for binge drinking | Source
Stats show that when parents are present risk is lowered
Stats show that when parents are present risk is lowered | Source

Listen so your teen will talk.

If you have concerns about your child becoming engaged in drug or alcohol misuse, the first step in talking to them about it is to listen. In general we can begin to know a lot about risk factors for our children when we take time to have conversations and solicit their opinions about the following:

  • What does your child say about drugs and alcohol?
  • What social values does your child have?
  • Are his or her views picked up from how you view and behave around alcohol?
  • Why might your child accept drugs or alcohol? Is he or she safe from peer pressure?
  • If you or someone else in your family smoke pot or use recreational drugs how does your child view that?
  • If your family has a history of addiction or mental health - what does your child know/think about it?
  • Does your child know they can talk to you about drug and alcohol use?

North America and Europe handle this issue very differently and there are different cultural norms in Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian and African communities. However teens from all socio economic and cultural backgrounds, living in the west, can be affected by their own or someone elses drinking or drug use.


Preaching of any sort, especially 0 tolerance at home is usually a sure fire way to keep you out of the conversational loop and be among the last to know that your child is engaging in drug or alcohol use.

Creating open conversations, noticing things that are happening on the news and being curious will offer you and your teen opportunities to discuss and provide information respectfully without getting into conflict. The opportunity to help your teen make safe plans or listen to his or her concerns about drug and alcohol use at their school without fear of judgement from you puts into play a protective factor that may keep your child safe.

Finding moments to share information "teachable moments" such as a comment about something in the local paper or asking a question about how your teen would handle a situation such as getting into a car with a friend who had been drinking - curiously and not judgementally - will lead to opportunities for you to share any concerns you may have and setting up a back up plan with your teen. For example they go to a friends house and someone produces some booze. Your teen drinks or wants to leave and doesn't drink - are you available for them to call without a lecture? It's OK to say things like I'm not comfortable about you spending the night at xxx's house - but they are always welcome to spend the night at our home or find an alternative compromise that includes your teen in the decision.

Help your teen to understand that you trust them and that you are also looking out for their safety. When situations come up, reflect back to when you were a teen. How was the situation handled? Was it helpful or unhelpful? If it was unhelpful try something different.

What age did you start to drink alcohol

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What if my teen is at risk?

If you teen is starting to engage in risky behaviours around drugs and alcohol talk to a youth counsellor or outreach counsellor in your area. If there is no service for this contact the nearest al-anon - see links below for some resources. Whilst enabling is a slippery slope, threats and unrealistic bans can also inflate the problem. Getting professional help and finding positive peer group resources for your teen as soon as possible will benefit your family.


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    • Lizam1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scotland

      thanks teaches12345. Everything is getting younger it seems - except me:-).

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Liz, I recently heard that most children do start drinking at an earlier age in today's world, as early as twelve. It is so sad. I do not drink, but I do know how tempting it is and can relate to the effects of peer pressure. Your advice is wonderful and I am sure it will help many parents out there in reaching out to their teen. Voted up. Blessings, dear lady.


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