Parenting teenagers comes with various challenges, but the fear that they’ll veer down the wrong path is the scariest of all. While it’s natural for children to try things and test their boundaries, substance use can be a slippery slope.
Some early signs of drug use include a loss of interest in activities, emotional dysregulation, and an increase in rule-breaking. You might also notice your teen spending time with new people or find evidence of drug use in your home.
Whatever has led you to wonder if your child is using drugs, here is what to do next.
Take Some Time To Breathe
If something happens that leads you to believe that your teen is using drugs, you may feel compelled to confront them right away. The problem with taking immediate action is that your emotions will control the situation. It’s OK to feel shocked, angry and upset, but you need to have a level head when approaching this delicate conversation.
Take some time to breathe and consider your next steps. Do something that calms you down, and reach out to someone you trust to help you process your emotions. Talking to a parenting or drug awareness support program can also help you decide what to do next.
Create an Action Plan
Next, create an action plan. Start by gathering evidence and determining how you’ll present your suspicions and findings to your teen. Decide if you want to have at-home drug screening kits on hand for the conversation as well as who should be present. If you suspect drug use and don’t have evidence, now is the time to try and find some.
Talk to the Other Parent
It’s important to present a united front to your teenager when having a conversation about your concerns. Many parents are surprised to discover they have a different opinion or mindset when discussing drug use — and you don’t want to learn about your differences during your talk with your teen.
Discuss the road ahead and clarify how you both feel about the situation. In many cases, one parent will want to hand out a harsher punishment than the other. If you’re in doubt, reach out to a counselor to help you see each other’s point of view.
This aspect of the process can be challenging if you and the other parent are no longer together. Use your best judgment to determine how to handle the communication with everyone involved.
Open a Safe Dialogue
When it’s time to talk, remember that you’re trying to have a conversation, not a confrontation. It’s natural for your child to go on the defensive to avoid getting in trouble. They may even question your choices or lash out in other ways.
Stay calm and hold an honest, open-minded dialogue. You might not get a confession out of your teen — that’s normal. If they ask if you’ve tried drugs, be honest while maintaining boundaries. Remember that you’re the adult in the situation.
Staying calm is a must when handling this conversation. Remember to keep breathing and maintain control.
Set Goals and Consequences
Consider what goals and consequences should come out of this conversation. Prepare yourself by keeping your expectations low. If your only goal is to start a conversation and highlight your awareness, that’s fine.
You should determine the consequences before the conversation but be open to input and feedback. Create consequences that you’ll stick to; this is as much about your discipline as it is your child’s. Let them know what lies ahead if the behavior continues.
Unfortunately, the work doesn’t end with one conversation. It’s up to you to continue monitoring the situation going forward. If you have a history of addiction and substance abuse in your family, consider reaching out for support as soon as possible.
Talking about drug use and trying to find common ground with your child isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. While the road ahead will be difficult, it’s all a part of the job of being a parent.
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