If you suspect your child is drinking or using drugs, don’t burry your head in the sand and hope that it is only a “phase.” The best thing you can do is ask your teen about partying and drugs and listen to them non-judgmentally. Here are some tips from theantidrug.com for having this difficult conversation:
* Have this discussion without getting mad or accusing your teen of being stupid, bad or an embarrassment to the family. Make sure you are calm and have plenty of time to talk.
* Tell your teen that you love him or her and are worried that he or she might be using drugs or alcohol. Tell your child what you see and how you feel about it, and be specific about the things you’ve observed that cause you concern. If you found drug paraphernalia, let them know. Explain how their behavior or appearance has changed and why that worries you.
* Explain that you are there to listen to them and that you want to be part of the solution.
* Try not to make the conversation an inquisition, but understand that teens are naturally private about their lives. Ask questions such as: What are you doing? When was the last time you used? Did you do anything you regret? Have friends or others offered you drugs at a party or school? Did you try out of curiosity or did you do it for some other reason?
* Discuss the dangers of drug use with your child. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, teens are 50 percent less likely to use drugs if they learn the risks of drug use from their parents.
* Explain to your teen that even “experimentation” can lead them down a dangerous road. Not everyone will progress from experimentation to abuse to addiction, but there’s no way to tell who will develop a problem and who won’t.
* Be prepared for your teen to deny using drugs, get angry and/or change the subject. Don’t expect them to admit they have a problem.
* Be prepared for your child to confront you with questions about what you did as a kid. If you’re asked about your own drug or alcohol use, experts agree that it is best to be honest. Answering deceptively can cause you to lose credibility with your kids if they find out you lied.
* Set clear ground rules about drug and alcohol use, and let your teen know that you will enforce these rules.
* Remember, this is not a one-time conversation. The more you talk to your teen about partying and drugs, the more likely they will be to remember the risks and feel comfortable coming to you if they have a problem.
If you think your teen is using drugs or drinking, take action. The sooner you address the problem, the less likely that their experimentation will lead to abuse and addiction. Immediately begin to more closely monitor your teen’s activities and set up reasonable rules and consequences that are enforceable. The most important thing you can do as a parent is not deny that a drug or alcohol problem exists. If the problem is beyond your ability to handle, ask for help. There are many drug and alcohol treatment programs that are tailored to teens.