Victoria Legra LMHC, CAP, CCHT/AC
Let’s face it – drugs and alcohol are everywhere you look in society today. Whether they are illicit, over-the-counter or prescribed – teens are constantly exposed to drugs and alcohol via movies, television, school, friends and even in your home. You may have them in your cabinet or a family member is taking any one of hundreds of types of prescription drugs. How can you approach this thorny subject as a responsible parent?
Here are a few tips:
1. Be ready for QUESTIONS!!! – Educate yourself on as many sources you can get your hands on. Keep in mind that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Teach your child how to distinguish between reliable and factual resources ranging from government web sites to opinion blogs. Sit down with them and scan the resources together. Make the time to do this or someone, let’s say who is not in your teen’s best interest, will beat you to the punch.
2. Don’t be a “know it all” – Believe it or not you can actually learn from your kids about teen drugs and alcohol. If you don’t know something it’s okay to say so. Teens have a lot to say about
what they know. Listening without judgement and ultimatums is the key. If you make them feel defensive you’ve shut down the opportunity to gain valuable intel about how your child thinks and processes information.
3. Don’t use other people as examples of what not to do – Avoid using anyone you or your children may know as a cautionary tale of who you don’t want your child to be. Don’t say: “Do you want to end up like Tommy, who is never going to college and will probably end up in jail.” As a parent, your focus is to educate your child – talking about someone else distracts them from the point you are trying to get across.
4. Emphasize the negative effects of teen drug use – Talk to your kids about the negative effects of drug and alcohol use that can often lead to legal, financial and educational problems. Inform your teen and don’t lecture by speaking to them about the importance of saving money and becoming a good student and how drugs and alcohol deter you from attaining these goals. In addition, your child needs to understand that money derived from drug dealing doesn’t solve all problems and that drug convictions or alcohol DUI stays on your record for either a long time or eternity.
5. Show them, don’t tell them – Whoever coined the term a picture is worth a thousand words must have been a genius. This philosophy also applies to parenting, especially when talking to your teens about drugs. The most powerful message about the dangers of teen drug abuse can be best conveyed through an image or video.
Before and after face of meth above
6. Get physical with your teen – No, we are not insinuating hitting your teen, but talking to him or her about the countless dangerous physical effects of teen alcohol and drug use – some of them permanent. Also tell them about the physical tolls drugs can have on a young brain that can be irreversible.
Remember, it’s never too late to communicate with your children about drugs and alcohol. Get started talking. Every day events are all around us. Even if your teen may have tried tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, you can still guide then about making better, healthier choices and how to say “NO” next time.
About Victoria Legra LMHC,CAP,CCHT/AC
Victoria is a Qualified Supervisor for Mental Health interns and a seasoned therapist working with the Florida Department of Corrections, the Department of Children and Families and Homeless trust. Ms. Legra works with different age groups, cultures and social economic levels. She has also been presented as an “Expert” in drug court, DUI group therapy sessions and with the counseling of the severely mentally ill.