Understand your impact and be a positive role model.
Teens look up to their parents and you are their greatest role model. Teens will notice the value that parents place on drinking and using substances and whether they are acting responsibly if they do use. Teens will also learn how parents deal with negative emotions and stressful situations and whether substances are used to cope with various stressors in their life. If you find that you are abusing drugs and alcohol, please seek help immediately.
Stay informed and depend on the facts.
Keep yourself educated on the various substances that are popular among teens. Knowing the signs and risks of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use, inhalants and over the counter medication will help you to address the problem immediately if you suspect your teen is using. Keep all medication locked up in a cabinet and limit the access to alcohol in your home. Be specific when talking about various drugs because teens may see some drugs as not as harmful as others. Be accurate, and avoid minimizing the potential harm of drugs and alcohol.
Support them in making healthy choices for themselves.
Encourage your teen to make positive choices for themselves and praise them for their accomplishments. Developing healthy friendships, participating in sports or hobbies, and engaging in family activities – these are all great ways to help them develop self-esteem and social connections with one another. Be aware that some competitive sports may put your child at risk for using drugs and alcohol. Knowing where your teens are at all times and what they are involved in helps increase the chances of them making positive choices for themselves.
Communicate with your children and be involved in their lives.
Spend time with your teen. Don’t be afraid to have open, honest conversations, even if they might sometimes feel awkward. Maintain a regular dialogue with your teen through structured time for communication, like meals or family activities. You can also use “teachable moments” when substance use comes up through the media to discuss the family’s values, expectations, and consequences to using. By developing a close and consistent relationship with your teen they will know that you will be there for them when they need you the most.
Make clear rules and enforce them consistently.
Part of adolescence is testing boundaries as a part of creating their own identities, values and independence. At the same time, teens also need the love, support and guidance of their parents and other trusted adults. As a parent you set the guidelines about what behaviors are expected of your children. Follow through and be consistent in enforcing the expectations you have set. No one respects rules that are arbitrary. Stay strong in your commitment to providing real guidance to your children.
Support them as they negotiate the challenges of being a teen.
Discuss with your teen ways to deal with peer pressure to use and reinforce with them that if they find themselves in a difficult situation to walk away or talk with an adult. Know who your childrens’ friends are, who they look up to at school, admire in popular culture, and go to for advice outside of the family. If your teen admits to using substances don’t overreact. Find out what they used and why they used and seek help if needed.