Talking to your Teen about Staying Alcohol- and Drug-Free

As your child grows up, there are many things that start changing: their voice, their attitudes, and their friends. This is a key time for you to remain active and engaged in their life. Ask them about their day, the activities they are involved in, and most importantly, show them you care.

Most of us remember the awkward conversation with our parents or a mentor when we were a teenager. While we wanted to squirm away, in the end we appreciated it. It can be a sensitive and tricky topic, but the conversation gets more comfortable the more you bring it up. Remember, the drug and alcohol discussion can’t just be a one-time thing; it should be a continual conversation.

While teens can fall into addiction no matter how involved their parent is, research shows that youth who reported better relationships with fathers were less likely to smoke, drink, or use marijuana, according to American College of Pediatricians. This fact can give parents comfort knowing they are significantly reducing their teen’s risk of addiction simply by being there for them.

What If You Did Drugs in the Past?

Don’t shy away from the conversation, even if you experimented with drugs or alcohol in the past. Your experience can actually prep you to offer more informed advice and a personal story to confide in your teen. It’s best not to go into details, but explain the feelings you felt and how your experimentation made a negative impact in your life.

Experts disagree on how much to tell; but we believe it’s best to consider your teenager and how they will handle the truth. If you don’t want to share more, let them know and move on in the conversation. However, it’s never a good idea to lie. Getting caught in a lie with your teen will only give them fuel to use against you.

Ideas to Get Closer to Your Teen

Staying close with your teen as he or she grows up is important. While teenagers may seem distant, they appreciate your interest and support. Below are some ideas to help you connect, and stay close with your teenager in these more challenging years.

Family dinner

No matter how busy you or your teen are, you both need to eat. Set a time to sit down and eat dinner together, aiming for a few times a week. Consider preparing the meal together — this provides additional time to connect and talk while keeping your hands busy.

Enjoy an activity together

Find something that your teenager enjoys, like golf, or hiking. This is an opportunetime for you to learn more about their interests and join them. Conversations seem to flow more easily when you are doing something and not just talking.

Car rides

Take advantage of your younger teenager’s inability to drive and use those car rides together as a time for conversation. Make it a point to talk with them in the car and not just sit quietly. Ask them questions, and engage them in conversation.


You are still the parent and most likely your teen needs funds to get items for their hobbies, clothes, toiletries, and more. Make shopping together a fun activity. Before you go, set expectations as to how much your teen can spend so there are no arguments.

Saying goodnight

Telling your teen goodnight every single night can be a wonderful way to connect with them. Saying goodnight often provides comfort for a teen, whether they would admit it or not. The sameness of being tucked in each night by a caring parent offers a feeling of stability.

No matter what you do, your teenager will benefit from your involvement. Read our advice for talking to your child and other helpful educational posts.