First, Breathe. Then Let's Get Started.
If you've just discovered that your child is drinking or doing drugs, the first thing you need to do is sit down, relax, and take time to breathe.
We know it's a scary time, but you're in the right place. We'll help you plan and determine what to do — how to gather information, have productive conversations, set tighter limits, and bring in outside help.
Take a deep breath, relax, and when you're ready, start with step one below.
Here's a multimedia checklist with information, tips and video to help you get focused.
Reach an agreement with your spouse beforehand.
We're all familiar with the kid's trick of going to the other parent when one says no. There are similar issues with drug and alcohol use-you will certainly hear about it if your spouse has different attitudes. It's best for you and your spouse to sit down to come to a common stance on drug and alcohol use before you talk about the issue with your teen.
- Talk it over with your spouse or significant other beforehand
- Remind each other that nobody is to blame
- Come to an agreement on the position you'll take
- Even if you disagree, commit to presenting a united front
- Pledge not to undermine or bad talk each other
- Expect denial and possibly anger
- Remind each other to come from a place of love when talking to your teen
See what an expert has to say about being on the same page with your spouse or partners.Watch now
The important thing is you don't want YOUR TEEN doing drugs or drinking.
One of the questions you'll be sure to be asked is whether or not you have done drugs yourself. There are many responses if you experimented in the past. Today's drugs are much stronger than they were when you were young. You can say that you're sorry, and wish you had never tried drugs. Just don't let your teen manipulate you into a position where your response becomes a justification for them to use.
- Focus on the issue at hand-you don't want YOUR TEEN doing drugs or drinking
- Be honest-but be sure they know you don't want them using
- If you use tobacco and your child calls you on this, mention that you are an adult, and yes, you can do this since it's legal - but you understand that you shouldn't and it's not healthy. Underscore how hard it is to stop as an adult and that you want to help your child to avoid making the same mistakes.
- If you're in recovery, think of your past experiences as a gift you can use to impact your child. Tell your teen, "I did these things but I made wrong choices and I want you to learn the lessons from my mistakes."
Experts offer tips on how to be open and honest about your past.Watch now
Evidence or no, it's good to talk to your teen about doing drugs and drinking.
You've probably come to this site because you have found evidence that your teenager is using. But what will happen if your teen says it belongs to someone else? It's good to anticipate all the different ways your teenager might try to deny usage. But in any case, you should bring the subject up.
- Anticipate the different ways your teen might try to deny it
- Even if she says it belongs to someone else-it's a good time to talk about doing drugs and drinking
- It's important to bring the topic up, even if you don't have an airtight case
- Look in Monitor for tips on good places to look for evidence
Expert offers tips on collecting evidence.Watch now
Resolve beforehand to remain calm.
If you think this conversation will be uncomfortable for you, imagine how uncomfortable it will make your teenager. Be prepared for your teen to say things to shock you, to flat-out deny even the most convincing evidence, accuse you of distrust, and more. It's a good idea to think about how you're going to handle these responses
- The most important thing is to keep the conversation going
- Resolve to remain calm, no matter what your teen says
- Try not to be baited to respond with anger of your own
- If the conversation gets too heated, end it and bring it up later
- If you find the discussion is too emotional and heated and not productive, figure out what you need to do for you or your child to calm down. For some people it may be walking away temporarily or putting the conversation on hold; for some it may be counting to ten or taking a deep breath. Figure out what's going to work best for you and your child before you start the conversation. If you're struggling, talk to a counselor to help you find de-escalation techniques that are effective and work naturally for you.
- Don't forget to tell your teen that you love her, and this is why you are concerned.
See what an expert has to say about remaining calm throughout the process.Watch now
Work toward a desirable - and realistic - outcome.
While it's good to open up the conversation with your teen in any capacity, your conversation will probably go more smoothly if you have a desirable outcome in mind. It's a good idea to keep your expectations low - it's probably not realistic to expect your teen to admit to use immediately and pledge to stop. But a more reasonable objective, like simply expressing that you don't want her to use, can be a small triumph.
- Try not to have unrealistic expectations
- Your teen will probably not admit to use
- Set a small goal and move toward it
- Simply expressing to them that you don't want them using is a good goal
Formulate an idea of what you'd like your rules to be.
It's a good idea to think through the rules you would like to set-and what the consequences of breaking them will be-before you sit down to have a talk with your teenager. That way you'll be able to clearly define what you would like the goal of your conversation to be, and you can set a clear next step. For tips on this, be sure to visit the Set Limits section.
- Have an idea of the rules and consequences you'd like to set going in
- Listen to your teen's feedback and let him help negotiate rules and consequences
- Be sure your spouse knows about and is prepared to enforce these rules
- Don't set rules you will have no way of enforcing
Drug and alcohol dependence can happen to anyone. But if there is a history of addiction - cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, etc. - in your family, then your child has a much greater risk of developing an addiction. As a parent you need to be aware of this elevated risk and discuss it with your child regularly, as you would with any disease.
- Explain to your teen that while he may be tempted to try drugs, the odds are really against him. His genes make him more vulnerable and he could easily develop a dependence or addiction.
- Don't deny addiction in your family. Use it as a way to talk to your child and regularly remind her of her elevated risk.
Expert shares thoughts on the importance of recognizing addiction in the family.Watch now
It's very important that teens feels supported at all times by their parent. Be sure to let your child know that he or she can always count on you and come to you for support. Remind him that you are always there to offer guidance.
- Reassure your child that she can confide in or seek advice from you when she's stressed or dealing with a personal issue - this can help diminish her desire to use.
- As angry or frustrated as you feel, try to speak from a place of love, caring and concern - and express these feelings to your teen.
- Explain to your child that the reason you're talking with her and asking questions is because you love her and care about her and want her to be healthy and successful.
Expert discusses the importance of being there for your child.Watch now