As a parent, you might find it very difficult to have meaningful conversations about drugs and alcohol with your child. What you need to understand is that you are the most powerful force in the life of your child. If you do not speak to them, you are passively making a statement about the issue. You need to give them clear information and counsel about the issue so that there will be no misunderstandings. Here are some tips to get you started on your way to having a successful conversation with them.
1. Pick an opportune time and place for your discussion.
Choose a time to speak when there is nothing distracting either of you from the discussion. Try having the discussion without making constant eye contact with them. If your eyes are always on them, they might feel like they are under a microscope. You may even want to go for a walk or a drive together so that you will be side by side.
2. Be open and actively listen.
Try to listen actively, and let the conversation be organic. Don't plan a speech that sounds rehearsed. Remain calm and rational. This way, you will be more persuasive and less preachy. Ask open-ended questions. You don't want to ask yes or no questions that don't engage your child.
Use your active listening skills. Active listening is a technique where you let your child know that they are being understood by reflecting their statements. You should listen to them without interrupting and then sum up what you have heard from them. You can begin by saying, "It seems like you are feeling..."
You should be using more "I" statements than "you" statements. This will prevent your teen from feeling like you are accusing them.
3. Recognize that you are a powerful influence on your child.
You are the most powerful influence in your child's life. For this reason, you want to let your child know directly that you don't want them to use drugs or alcohol. At the same time, you don't want to be so insistent that you sound like you are preaching or lecturing.
Much of what you say should be informative in nature. You should try to educate your child with objective facts about the nature of abuse and addiction. If you believe your teen is already having issues with drugs and alcohol and may need help, let them know that seeking treatment for substance use disorder is a courageous thing to do.
4. Be empathetic and supportive.
You should not speak to your child as a cold, disinterested party. You need to show compassion. If you have experience with addiction or using drugs or alcohol, you might want to tell them a little about your experiences. You want to leave your child with the sense that you are a person that they can approach when they are having an issue.
With these tips in mind, you will be on your way to having a meaningful, successful conversation about drugs with your child. One last point to remember is that your child's brain is not done developing during their teen years. This means that not all of their behavior will be as rational as yours. You need to understand this as you deal with your teen's issues.
Alice Munday is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She is committed to helping those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.