Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Do I Talk to my Teenager About Drugs and Alcohol?

The short answer is....any way you can. You should start the conversation as soon as you possibly can. When your fifth grader mentions learning about the dangers of smoking, or your third grader sees Lindsey Lohan on the cover of People magazine, you have a golden opportunity. Rather than delivering a monologue on the dangers of drug use, ask your child what he or she thinks about the subject at hand. Does she know anybody who smokes? Has he heard kids talk about drugs? You want to have an ongoing conversation
about this issue as your child grows, is exposed to drugs and alcohol, and as his views change about drugs and alcohol. You cannot really expect your teenager to hold the same perspective he did in 3rd grade, and the reality is that drugs and alcohol will be readily available in the High School years, at the latest. Even if he does not try addictive substances, he will have plenty of friends who have. I don't mean to say that your teenager should not have to hear your warnings, and your set of values. In fact, I think he will be much more likely to follow your lead if you give him the respect of hearing him out. You may have to listen to your teenager tell you that marijuana is "natural" and therefore safe, that laws against teenage drinking are unfair and anachronistic, or that plenty of kids use cocaine without any discernible problems. Engage your teenager in that conversation, and do not hesitate to give your own viewpoint. If you have nuanced views about drugs and alcohol - and most adults do - don't hesitate to tell  your teenager about those views. But also, don't hesitate to absolutely forbid some behaviors: your teenager will benefit from knowing exactly where you stand...... 


  1. Hi, I am a Journalism student at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK and I am writing an article about teenage drinking. I was hoping I could ask you a few questions to get a professionals perspective on the issue?

  2. Sorry for my late reply - if I can be of any use, please send me your questions.
    Larry Westreich MD

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