When it comes to substance use, the earlier teens start, the more likely it is that they’ll struggle with addiction as adults.
It’s no secret that the developmentally vulnerable teenage mind is often unable to think strategically about how their actions may have consequences and alter the trajectory of their future. This is why substance use among teens is so concerning. The earlier that teens drink, vape, or experiment with drugs, the more likely they are to struggle with addiction later in life. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to delay, or even prevent, the age of initiation for their teen.
Take a Stand
Parents must establish a firm standard of “not in my house.” Know that you have more persuasive authority than you might think you do. If you drink or use a substance, don’t let your teen see you intoxicated. They tend to mimic the behavior of others.
Keep Communication Open
When your teen gets into trouble, it’s important they know that they can still talk to you about it. These conversations can be awkward at first, but the more you normalize it, the easier it becomes. Convey that it’s about their health and wellbeing, but at the end of the day, you’re the parent; it’s your rules. An approach that is open, understanding, and consistent rather than explosive and punitive will be more effective. It’s about their health, not just morals.
Look for Clues
Changes in your teen’s behavior could be a clue that they are using substances. This could look like a drop in their grades or spending more time alone. Part of the puzzle is to distinguish problem behaviors from the normal teen troubles. Look for changes that are concerning, and talk to your kids about these things. Get a professional evaluation if necessary.
The Perfect Antidote to Addiction
The best way to delay or prevent substance use in teens is still to spend quality time with them. This could include anything from eating dinner together to just goofing around. Don’t let substance use seem like the most fun around.
Teens need a strong sense of connection to family members and friends who are a positive influence in their lives. They also need to stay active and occupied, especially with things they enjoy and that bring them a sense of accomplishment. Let them teach you something new. You might be surprised what you learn.