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TALKING WITH YOUR TEEN ABOUT DRUGS AND ALCOHOL

As use of drugs and alcohol by teens increases across the U.S., it’s important for parents to establish an open dialogue with their children as they explore tobacco, alcohol and prescription or illegal drugs.
“No child is immune,” says psychiatrist Danielle Parisi, D.O. “We can’t rely solely on law enforcement or schools to protect our children from becoming victims of substance abuse. While we should all work together, parents need to model the behavior we expect from our children. Begin talking early about smoking, drugs and alcohol, and continue talking as your children get older. It’s a sad reality that individuals who do become addicted often have their first experiences at a young age.”
Here are a few practical suggestions to help you talk with your teen:
  1. Take a stance of curiosity rather than control. So often we try to convince, coerce, and control our teens, which evokes an immediate defense. Seek to ask, understand, and align with your teen’s curiosities, desires and decisions. This does not mean you agree with your teen, but you are helping to explore these life decisions.
  2. Be realistic as you discuss the possible consequences of substance abuse. It is tempting to use scare tactics, but keep your conversations realistic. Help your child build an attitude resistant to drug use. Create significant consequences to discourage exploration of inappropriate substances.
  3. Know your teen’s friends. Playing an active role in your child’s life is a proven way to help prevent underage drinking and drug use. Find ways to be involved in their daily lives. Encourage them to have friends over, but don’t allow your child to go to parties, sleepovers or other activities that aren’t supervised by an adult you trust.
  4. Talking with your teen early is one of the best ways to avoid problems later. The average onset of first use is 14 years old, so consider having these conversations by 12 years old.
If your child is exhibiting behaviors that are concerning, or if you suspect that he or she has already developed a substance abuse problem, talk with your physician and seek help for your child and your family. Some kids may have an underlying, undiagnosed anxiety or depression disorder and use drugs to self-medicate.
“If you are concerned about your child’s behavior or possible substance abuse, or if you feel as though your child could benefit from having someone other than a parent to talk with, schedule a consultation with a behavioral health professional,” urges Dr. Parisi.
To make an appointment at Bay Behavioral Health, call 732-324-5199.

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