7 Ways to Affect Your Teens Decisions about Substance Use

“Teens report that their parents have the greatest influence over their risk behavior decisions – more than friends, siblings, or the media.” -CDC, Youth Behavior Risk Survey

1. Talk early and talk often.

Find simple moments like in the car, or when a topic comes up on T.V. Express your disapproval of underage substance use.  “Teens who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who don’t.”[1] 

Use these guides and materials for starting points: https://www.samhsa.gov/talk-they-hear-you/parent-resources/five-conversation-goals and https://www.naturalhigh.org/8-conversations-with-teen-about-drugs-alcohol/

2. Be prepared to answer their tough questions.

Be open and honest and lay out clear expectations for their behavior. Don’t let your past stop you from talking about underage substance use. Be honest. Let them know more is now understood about teen brain development and how addiction can begin. “Youth are 6.5 times more likely to become addicted if they try drugs before age 21.” [2]

Use this guide to prepare you for tough questions: https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma18-5075_0.pdf

3. Helping them understand their health and well-being is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.

Talk to them about making healthy choices and the effect of substances on their growing brain. The adolescent brain continues to develop until 25 years old, introducing substances in their teen years actually rewires their brain to become dependent on that substance. [3]

Check out this short video: https://youtu.be/LKNinwH63zc about Teens and their Developing Brain.

4. Learn more about the challenges they are facing.

The most common substances your teen might encounter are alcohol and tobacco products (like vape and e-cigarettes). The increase of vape/ e-cigarette use has become a concern in schools across the country. In 2019, 22% of Fayette County middle school students had tried vaping and 29% had tried alcohol. Among high school students, those numbers were 36% for vaping and 42% for alcohol. Be aware of what to look for and ask them how they would handle the situation if offered the substances. Check out these tools for help: Vaping, Alcohol, Opioid Toolkit

5. Increase their connection to family and school.

Connectedness means being cared for, supported, and belonging. It could be a connection to school, family, or other important people/organizations in their lives. Youth who feel connected at school and home are less likely to experience negative health outcomes related to sexual risk, substance use, violence, and mental health. [4]  Ways to increase connectedness include: Honest communication, Sharing in fun activities, Family meal time, Volunteering at their school, Helping with their homework and Speaking with their teachers.                          

6. Know their friends and their friends’ parents.

Communication with other parents help create consistency. Do they have the same rules for locking up alcohol in the home, setting a curfew, hanging out on school nights, etc? Effective monitoring practices, knowing where your teen is and who they are with, also helps your teen make healthy decisions and avoid risky behaviors. Learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/factsheets/parental_monitoring_factsheet.htm

7. If your teen is struggling, reach out for help.

Parents seem to keep it to themselves when their teen is having a difficult time. You are not alone and they are not alone. Check out this resource page or contact us.   

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