Start the Conversation
When you suspect your teen is drinking, using drugs or struggling with a mental disorder, how can you begin to help them? It starts with a talk, because your proactive, loving support can be key to getting them the treatment they need. That hard (but good) conversation is the first step towards wellness.
Consider a private setting with limited distractions, like your home or on a walk. Do not start the conversation until they feel safe and comfortable. You may hear things that hurt your feelings, make you worry or are downright painful. For the moment, reserve your reactions and give them time to work through theirs.
Communicate at a level that is appropriate to the child’s age and developmental level. Be prepared to take the conversation in stride. Watch their reaction during the discussion, and slow down or even back up if they become confused or look upset.
Ask how they are feeling. Listen openly, actively and without judgement. Encourage them to explore their emotions and to find words to describe how they are feeling.
Take punishment off the table, and create real opportunities for growth and development. Reassure your teen that mental and/or substance use disorders are treatable. Be the connection to help locate treatment services.
Your child won’t heal overnight. Continue reaching out with offers to listen and help. Remind them constantly that they are secure in your love.
Affirm your support and respect for their struggles. Help them feel secure, but let them know they aren’t struggling alone.
“I’ve been worried about you. Can we talk? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?”
“I see you’re going through something. How can I support you?”
“I care about you, and I’m here to listen. Do you want to talk about what’s been going on?”
“I’ve noticed you haven’t seemed like yourself lately. How can I help?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“You never acted like this when you were younger.”
“I’m disappointed in you.”
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- 5 conversation goals when talking to your teen about drugs