Talking About Drugs
Written by Cedar Ridge Academy,
in Section Featured Articles
How to Talk to Your Kids When You Think They’re Using Drugs
You suspect your teen is using drugs. Maybe they’re not acting like themselves. Maybe they’re cutting school or shirking other responsibilities. Maybe their grades are dropping. Or their behavior is worsening. Maybe they’ve started hanging out with a bad crowd.
Maybe they’re being secretive and have even stolen money from your wallet. Maybe their physical appearance has changed with rapid weight loss or red eyes. Maybe you’ve noticed a change in their sleep habits, energy level and mood. Maybe you’ve actually found marijuana or other drugs in their room.
Naturally, the thought and possible confirmation of your child using drugs trigger a rush and range of emotions: anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, fear.
If you think your child is using drugs, how do you approach them? Where do you start?
Two parenting experts shared their insight below.
1. Be direct and calm.
“This issue is too serious for subtlety,” said John Duffy, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens. He suggested readers approach their kids “directly and immediately.”
Avoid letting your anger and frustration spill over into the conversation. According to Lisa Kaplin, Psy.D, a psychologist and life coach who teaches parenting classes, “The best way to approach your child is with delicacy, not drama. If you approach them with panic, anger, aggression or accusations, you can be sure your child will tell you absolutely nothing.”
Yelling, threatening and lecturing your child typically leads them to withdraw, sneak around and lie, she said.
Duffy also suggested approaching your child “from an emotional space of genuine concern for well-being.” He understands that being calm and centered is a lot to ask of parents. “But it is, without a doubt, the approach that works best in my experience.”
It’s common for kids to deny their drug use, or to respond casually (e.g.,” It’s just pot, and I don’t smoke it that often, anyway”). If this happens, “give a brief response in which you tell them that you do not want them to use drugs of any kind,” Kaplin said. Reiterate your house rules about drugs and alcohol use and “the consequences that come with that behavior.”
2. Talk when your child is lucid.
Don’t try to have a serious conversation when your child is drunk or high, Duffy said. “This might seem like common sense, but I have worked with many parents who have attempted to lecture an inebriated teenager.”
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