You are the most important and powerful influence in your child’s life. Talk early and often about drugs.
Have multiple conversations about specific drugs throughout childhood and the teen years. For tips on how to talk to youth beginning at age 8, visit the Small Talks campaign.
Take advantage of natural conversation starters. Rather than the dreaded “we need to talk,” you might ask your teen what they think about a situation you witness together, such as seeing someone vaping or hearing a radio ad for beer.
Make it a conversation, not a lecture. Ask your child questions, such as: What do you think is the most dangerous drug? Why? What do you know about alcohol? Why do you think teens vape?
Be patient, listen without judgment, and don’t interrupt. Your teen will be more receptive and will appreciate your open, objective attitude.
Disapprove of any youth drug use. Research shows teens who think their parents disapprove are less likely to use drugs.
Talk about brain development. Studies show that youth drug use can cause permanent changes in the developing brain. Youth who use drugs create pathways in the brain that can prime them for addiction and other problems later in life. To explain this, try something like: “Adolescent brain development is like building a house. You need a solid foundation and four straight walls, or the house will not be stable and strong. Using alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs can interfere with the foundation of your brain development. I don’t want that for you!”
Focus on your child’s goals — both short and long-term. Try “You want to do well at next week’s game. Drug use can affect your coordination, memory, learning, attention, and mental health. Set yourself up to accomplish your dreams.”
Be prepared for common questions. They say: “Would you rather I drink alcohol? Weed is so much safer” or “Would you rather I smoke? Vaping is better for you.” You could say: “Honestly, I don’t want you doing anything that can harm you. I’m interested in knowing why you think weed (or vaping) is safer than alcohol (or smoking).” Why this works: This reminds your child that you care about his or her well-being. Expressing genuine curiosity about their thought process will help them open up. Later, follow up with a few facts about the dangers of weed or vaping.