There are many challenges associated with adolescence. The process of reestablishing a teen’s identity often means that they test the limits of parental control. This includes pushing the boundaries of every substance or activity that they indulge in. However, with drugs and alcohol, there are serious consequences.
Globally, alcohol abuse and the abuse of illicit and prescription drugs continue to pose major health problems. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), roughly 5 percent of the world’s population used illicit drugs in 2010. About 27 million people, or 0.6 percent, were classified as problem drug users.
This shows the statistical danger that the abuse of drugs pose to the world at large. The challenge now is ensuring adolescents understand the consequences of substance abuse and stop it.
The structure teens need to stay safe comes from establishing clear rules about substance use. In adolescence there are no guarantees that your rules won’t be broken.
Research shows that children who have clear rules are less likely to get into serious trouble than those who don’t have them. Parents who set clear boundaries about what is and is not acceptable to their teens tend to steer them toward safer choices even when the rules are broken.
Having the conversation is crucial, but for many parents bringing up a potentially sensitive subject is daunting. Here are a few guidelines that can make the experience for all parties smoother and more productive:
- Schedule the talk
Your teenager may feel ambushed and defensive if you surprise her with a serious conversation. Be sure to let her know what you intend to talk about in advance, so everyone is on the same page.
- Outline the rules
Your rules must be clearly defined, as well as the consequences for breaking them. It is best to avoid ambiguity to show your teenager where you stand, and research has shown that setting limits tends to make kids safer.
When kids are being pressured to do something they aren’t comfortable with, knowing they can use their parents’ excuses can make it easier for them to say no to those requests.
- Give your reasons
It is very important to explain your reasoning for preventing substance use. By explaining yourself, you’re inviting teens to have a more open, adult conversation instead of being told what to do.