For Talking
with Your Teens

Starting the Conversation

Alcohol and Drug Use



Be Patient and Ready to Listen

Be prepared to do more listening than talking – it should feel like a conversation, not a lecture. It will be helpful if you can keep an open mind and show your genuine concern and interest. Ask open-ended questions rather than just “yes” and “no” questions. It’s okay for your conversations to take place over time.

Start the Conversation Naturally

Teens will likely be more receptive to a relaxed approach as opposed to anything that feels like a formal “sit down” meeting. Rather than saying, “We need to talk,” you might ask your teen what he or she is encountering with their friends. LET YOUR TEEN KNOW THEY’RE BEING HEARD.

Be Positive

Be attentive, curious, respectful, and understanding. If you approach the situation with shame, anger, or scare tactics, your conversation may not be very productive. For example, let your teen know that you are on their side and that you are here to support them.


Talk Openly About Your Family History

If there is a history of addiction in your family, then your child has a greater risk of developing a problem. Discuss this risk with your child as you would with any other illness.

Set Clear Expectations

Make sure your teen knows your rules and the consequences for breaking those rules – and, most importantly, that you really will enforce those consequences if the rules are broken. Kids who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use alcohol and drugs

If Your Child Is Interested in Drinking or Using Drugs, Ask “Why”

And ask what might happen if they do. This gets your teen to think about their future – and some of the possible negative consequences of drinking or using drugs. For example, they may be late to practice or do something stupid in front of their friends. If you suspect that your child has been drinking, share your concerns without sounding accusatory. For example, “I have noticed your grades are dropping, and that you are hanging out with a new crowd.” Focus on concerning behavior and why it worries you.

Teach Them How to Say “No”

Kids who don’t know what to say when someone offers them alcohol or other drugs are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Help them be prepared by role-playing different scenarios they might encounter. Let them know that they can always use you as an excuse. For example, “No, my parents signed me up for the drug-testing program at school.”

Offer Empathy, Compassion, and Support

Let your child know you understand teen years can be tough. Acknowledge that everyone struggles sometimes, but that alcohol and drugs are not a useful or healthy way to cope with problems. Let your child know that they can come to you for support and guidance. Model healthy ways of coping with stress such as exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep.

Give Them the Facts

Don’t just leave your child’s anti-drug education up to their school. Educate yourself so you can share the most up-to-date information with your teen. Let them know how important it is to protect their brains during these years of growth and development.


Encourage Them to Become a List Maker

Kids with perfectionist tendencies tend to focus on past failures. They become frozen with fear over the steps required for their next big endeavor. Creating a checklist can be a helpful tool that breaks down a complicated process into manageable steps where they can cross off completed items.

Become a Failure Role Model

Create opportunities for your child to witness you not being perfect at something important. Then follow it by a discussion about how you move past inevitable failures in life. Role modeling is particularly important if you feel that your child thinks you place strong pressure on them to perform. Teach them how to unwind after a long day with healthy ways to cope withs stress and anxiety.

Rebranding Their Goals

Help create a mindset shift by letting them know that, in most cases, getting things done is more important than doing things perfectly. Get them in the habit of repeating mantras like, “Mistakes aren’t fun, but they always teach me something,” and, “Progress is my goal, not perfection.”


Don’t Be the “Cool” Parent

Hosting parties for teens with the intention of teaching them to drink responsibly is a concept that some parents have adopted, believing it to be a proactive approach towards their children’s alcohol education. However, research indicates that this approach is misguided and ineffective in achieving its desired outcome. The teenage brain is still developing, and early exposure to alcohol, even under supervision, can have adverse effects.