Talking to Your Teenager about Alcohol & Substance Misuse

When your child reaches adolescence, you may well find that your communication style changes (in brief, you talk, they don’t).  While it can be frustrating, it’s important that your teen knows that you are still available to them. For the first time since you brought your bundle of joy home as a baby, there are things going on in their world that you’re not privy to, and that’s a big adjustment for parents.

You may hear news reports relating to alcohol and substance misuse and worry about your own teenager and how to address these issues with them.  Or you may suspect that she has already experimented with alcohol and drugs. In either case, it’s important to stay calm and open-minded. Getting too intense will put pressure on your teenager, so encourage a relaxed conversation, starting with questions about the ‘bigger picture’. Try to find out how things are going outside of home, with her friends, at school, etc. and make sure to ask questions that won’t result in one-word answers. This way, the conversation will be much more likely to flow.

You certainly can’t monitor your teen’s every activity but what you can do is let them know that you, while you support and expect them to make good decisions, you will still be there for them when they don’t. Also try to bear in mind that you still need to be a positive role model for them.

Although there are many stories in the media about illicit and licit substances leading to addiction, crime and death, it is important to remember that: (1) for most young people substance misuse is not a part of normal life (2) most people who do try drugs do not continue using them and adolescence is period of risk-taking.

Research shows that where young people do develop a problem with drugs and alcohol, the involvement and support of parents and families can make a big difference to the person’s health and their ability to deal with their drug habit.

The Community Substance Misuse Team (CSMT) is one service in Limerick City that provides support around this issue. CSMT also oversees the Strengthening Families programmes for the Mid West. This is a fourteen week programme that supports both parents and young people and aims to increase positive parent/child relationships and family cohesion and overall family resilience, reduce family conflict and enhance positive communication.

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