Parents are the #1 influence in their child’s decision making, especially decisions around using drugs and alcohol. Although we recommend that parents start having conversations with their children about these issues often and early, many parents are especially concerned about these topics as their child approaches adolescence.
During adolescence, children naturally tend to want to spend less time with their family and more time with friends. Yet the research is very clear that parents remain the #1 influence during this time. In fact, 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. (SAMSHA, 2015)
Here are some simple tips for effective communication with your children:
- Listen, Listen, Listen – listen first, then ask “What do you need?”, then respond.
- Ask them what are they looking forward to, what are their concerns – then problem solve together.
- When you ask them about their day, ask open ended questions and not just about homework and their “success” as a student.
- Pay attention to any changes in your child’s mood, behavior, friends, grades, etc.
- Try to remember that their behavior and attitudes are not necessarily reflective of who they will be as adults.
- Practice makes perfect! When talking with your teenager about saying no to alcohol and drugs, help them practice different possible scenarios.
- Find ways to compliment them each and every day.
- Have clear rules and consequences laid out in advance.
- Know their friends and the parents of their friends.
- http://missoulayouthcrisis.org – Here is a simple guide for navigating through crisis situations, and the community services that may help.
- www.SAMHSA.gov/underage-drinking – Ideas for how to handle conversations about substance use.
- Families First Parenting Programs at the Missoula Children’s Museum https://www.childrensmuseummissoula.org/families-first/ – They do parent consultations and classes and run a parent helpline: 1-800-346-2223 or 721-7690 (free, answer within 48 hrs).