Guest blog by Christy Crandell
With the upcoming school year just around the corner, your teen’s attention will soon be consumed by his or her academics, extracurricular activities and social events. Unfortunately, these factors can put significant pressure on your teen, which may push him or her to engage in risky activities. However, when parents address these behaviors, such as underage drinking, smoking and over-the-counter medicine abuse with their teens, they may be less likely to use. In fact, research from The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids suggests that teens who learn about the risks of drug and alcohol abuse from their parents are 50% less likely to use than those who don’t. But let’s be honest: Having a conversation about potentially dangerous behaviors with your teen, who may be feeling pressure from his or her peers to take risks in order to fit in, isn’t always a walk in the park.
Often, one of the biggest challenges that parents face when starting this kind of conversation is choosing the right environment. In a formal setting, parents may be met with resistance or defensiveness from their teens, who interpret the conversation as an accusation. The key to having an actual dialogue – as opposed to a lecture – with your teen about risky behaviors is to capitalize on everyday situations so that the discussion between you and your teen is more natural and genuine for all parties involved.
Here are three everyday situations that you can use to start the conversation about risky behaviors – and the dangers associated with them – with your teen:
- Watching a TV show or movie. Chances are you and your teen will watch a TV show or movie where drugs and alcohol are present. Immediately afterwards, discuss what you saw with your teen. Include your thoughts on the specific characters who are abusing drugs on screen and why engaging in such risk behaviors is dangerous. If there is a parent or caregiver character, be sure to point out what they did or did not do correctly. The media often makes serious issues more relatable, and will help level-set you and your teen.
- In the car. The car is an ideal place to start a conversation with your teen about risky behaviors, because it eliminates the opportunity for your teen to storm off. You can also tailor the conversation to match the nature of your destination. If you are driving to school, you can discuss the role that peer pressure often plays in your teen’s decision-making process. If you are driving to your teen’s friend’s house, you can mention that your teen can always call you if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
- Participating in your teen’s favorite activity. Because of the often uncomfortable nature of this conversation, it is important that your teen is relaxed and at ease when you bring up the topic of risky behaviors. No matter if your teen likes to run, knit, cook or play basketball, offer to join him or her, and strike up a heart-to-heart conversation where they feel most comfortable.
Let’s face it: Talking to your teen about risky behaviors will never be an easy thing to do. However, the everyday situations listed above should give you reassurance that the conversation doesn’t have to be awkward or stiff. For more advice, I encourage you to visit stopmedicineabuse.org to get additional details about cough medicine abuse and other risky teen behaviors as well as more tips on how to start the conversation with your teen.
Christy Crandell is a mother of two and author of “Lost & Found: A Mother and Son Find Victory over Teen Drug Addiction” and a contributor to the Five Moms blog. The Five Moms’ mission is to spread awareness about teen cough medicine abuse by openly talking about the challenges parents of teens face and offering from-the-heart advice on how everyone can work to prevent OTC cough medicine abuse in homes and communities. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.read more