Parenting Teens - When Should I Talk To My Child About Drugs?
Parenting Teens - When Should I Talk To My Child About Drugs?
Look for opportunities to talk about drugs with your teenager. Talk with your teens about ways they can so no to alcohol or other drugs, without them losing face with their friends. Be informed about drugs.
Key points about teens and drugs
- look for opportunities to talk about drugs
- a useful time to talk about drugs with older kids is when they start to ask questions or make comments about them - TV, movies, magazines, newspapers - these all provide a starting point for discussion
- talk with your teens about ways they can so no to alcohol or other drugs, without them losing face with their friends
- be informed about drugs
When should I talk to my teen about drugs?
From an early age, we take medicine (drugs) to ease the pains of colds, the flu and other childhood illnesses. We usually trust what we are given and believe that it will make us feel better. Using a drug to solve a problem becomes second nature. However, all drugs have a degree of risk connected with their use, and we need to make that very clear to our kids.
Help younger children to understand the risks
Younger children should never take any medicine without an adult knowing.
Younger children should never take any medicine without an adult knowing. Explain that they might get hurt or become even sicker if they have too much. If we can help younger children to understand the risks from drugs - such as aspirin or antibiotics - then we are in a better position to discuss issues about alcohol and other types of drugs in their teenage years.
Try to use opportunities like these to talk with your kids about the drugs you are giving them and why they should always be careful no matter what type of drug they are taking.
Start a conversation
Whether the drugs are medicinal, legal or illegal, our children should be aware of the risks associated with their use.
A useful time to talk about drugs with older kids is when they begin to ask questions or make comments about them. TV, movies, magazines, newspapers - these all provide a starting point for discussion. You can also start a conversation when they have to take medicines for illness. Whether the drugs are medicinal, legal or illegal, our children should be aware of the risks associated with their use.
Get them to read the labels and read out the side effects if listed. From this, you can discuss the fact that some drugs can cause different reactions and that is why it is important to take care even when taking medicines. Make sure they understand that as with many things, a little might be good but more is not always better - and in fact could be dangerous!
What are some tips for helping my teen with peer pressure over alcohol or other drugs?
Talk with your teens about ways they can so no to alcohol or other drugs, without them losing face with their friends.
Suggest some ways for them to say no like:
- "no ... I'm in training for my team"
- "no ... I have a big exam tomorrow"
- "no ... it makes me feel sick"
- "no ... I'm allergic to it"
- "no ... I'm happy enough without it"
- "no ... I have to be up early in the morning"
- "no ... not my scene"
- "no thanks"
Also, discuss strategies for when their friends want to bring alcohol or other drugs into your home. Make clear rules about this and explain your reasoning.
"We told our daughter that she wasn't allowed to drink alcohol or use drugs in our home with her friends. The only time she is allowed to drink at home is during a family meal or a celebration and then we as her parents decide how much is safe for her to have. Then we talked about the ways she could respond to her friends if they brought drugs or alcohol into our house."
How can I learn more about the dangers of drugs?
Encourage your kids to talk with you if someone is pressuring them to take drugs or alcohol. Be pleased that they want to talk with you and avoid getting angry or growling at them.
For some families, knowledge of drugs is second nature. Young people have seen their parents smoking drugs or taking pills - and sometimes this has happened for generations. But for many families, newer drugs such as 'party pills' and 'herbal highs' are something that they don't know a lot about.
Phone the Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787 797 for free advice.
The internet can be a good source of information about drugs with many websites providing accurate information about the effects of various substances. The New Zealand Drug Foundation has a good home page where you might start to find out more.
You can also phone the free Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787 797 for advice.
Take the opportunity to talk with other parents and share what each of you knows. Being aware of what other families are facing can be supportive when dealing with drug and alcohol issues.
Remember to keep your own prescription medicines in safe places where young people can't get them. Abuse of prescription drugs by young people has become common overseas. If you no longer need the drugs, return them to your local pharmacy. (Don't flush medicines down the toilet or pour them down the sink or throw them into the rubbish).
Alcohol and drugs and the developing teenage brain
Alcohol and drugs (such as methamphetamine) can be poisonous to the developing brain, particularly during pregnancy and adolescence. Even one drink can cause a lot of damage at certain times of brain development.
Watch a 4 minute video animation 'Under construction: Alcohol and the teenage brain'. It discusses brain development in teenagers and highlights the effects of alcohol and risky drinking on different brain regions, as well as its impact on behaviour.
Watch a 4 minute video animation 'Under construction: Cannabis and the teenage brain'. It discusses effects of cannabis on the brain. Brain development, adolescence and short and long-term effects of cannabis are explained in simple language.
During adolescence, existing connections between brain cells are strengthened and set for life. Alcohol and drug use during this stage can affect memory and organisation.
For optimal brain development, it is best to avoid alcohol until adulthood. If 15 to 17-year-olds do drink alcohol, they should be supervised, drink infrequently and at levels usually below and never exceeding the adult daily limits.1
See more KidsHealth content on parenting teens
Check out KidsHealth's section on parenting teens
This page last reviewed 24 February 2021.
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