Talking With Your Teen

By: Reality Check

You probably know other parents with teenage sons and daughters who don't talk to them about anything. But you're confident that your teen would talk to you if anything was wrong. After all, you're a reasonable, level-headed parent who has great communication with your teen, right?

Although most parents would like to think that they communicate well with their teens, when it comes to tough subjects like drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, many teens feel that they can't talk to their parents. Many teens are protective of their parents' feelings; they don't want to upset them, so they stick to "safe" subjects like school and sports instead of talking about what's really going on. Teens who need to talk about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco may feel that if they mention these tough topics to their parents, then they might become suspicious and accuse them of substance use. Teens who have used drugs in the past or are currently using drugs may feel that if they approach their parents, even if they are asking for help, their parents would become angry, yell, and probably punish them.

Many resources tell teens to talk to their parents, but parents have a responsibility to be good receivers of whatever information their teens share. Here are a few guidelines to help you talk to your teen:

Listen more than you talk

Give your teen your undivided attention. Don't interrupt. Focus on what she is telling you and listen the entire time she is talking. Often, people hear the first sentence and immediately begin thinking about their own response without listening to the rest. Listen to everything your teen tells you.

Stay calm

You might want to yell, but it's important that you remain calm. It's not easy for your teen to come to you with a big problem. Yelling will only make things worse. Take a deep breath and try to speak in a normal tone.

Remind your teen that you love and care about him

Teens need reassurance. You might be angry or disappointed at the choices he has made, but remember to direct your anger at the problem or issue your teen has, not at your teen directly. Telling your teen that you love him, care about him, and want to help might be difficult to say, but it is probably what your teen needs to hear.

Take appropriate action

Grounding your teen until she's 30 may seem like a good idea, but it's not the best action to take. After talking with your teen, take a day or two to think about what action is best. Punishment is not the answer. Your teen might need counseling or more extensive treatment, or maybe she just needs to steer clear of a certain group of friends. Sit down again with your teen and ask what ideas she has to help herself (and you) move forward.

Do your homework

If your teen has talked to you about drugs, do your homework. A number of online resources for drug information are available, including this site. A list of additional resources is at the bottom of this article. By knowing about specific drugs, you can stop yourself from jumping to conclusions and you show your teen that you care about him enough to gather helpful information.

Drug Information Resources:

Treatment Resources:

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