Sometimes parents are unsure on how to approach their kids or teens to talk about important issues. They fall back on their own upbringing, relying on that history for guidance.

However, all too often, that upbringing may not have been ideal.

Conversations with your kids about serious issues — like drug or alcohol use — isn’t a big deal if you are equipped with the right tools and the right attitude. For many kids, drug and alcohol use is a fact of life in their teen years. It is one of the ways they express their individuality, daring, curiosity and rebellion. The most effective and most important skill parents can have to help their teenagers steer clear of drug and alcohol abuse is open communication. Below are some tips for talking to your teenager about alcohol and drug use.

1. Start out the conversation with a blank slate

Listening to your child is the most important thing to build trust with them. Make sure to give your undivided attention, you may be surprised by his or her perspective.

2. Express your concerns

This is not the time to lecture your teen. Here, you need to talk about the health and safety risks that come along with drug use and underage drinking, such as violence, unplanned pregnancy and sexual assault. These points are very important, however, try to avoid scare tactics. Give factual information about alcohol and other drug use and correct any misconceptions your teen might have.

3. Keep on point

Make sure you come into the conversation with a game plan. If you typically don’t have conversations like this with your teen, they may feel uncomfortable or feel they are in trouble. Be open and positive, and keep the talk to about 20 minutes or less, so you’re less likely to lose their attention.

 4. Do not share personal substance use

According to a study published in the Human Communication Research Journal, it found that kids are more likely to feel drug and alcohol experimentation is more acceptable when their parent, or parents, have disclosed their own prior drug or alcohol use. You are not a hypocrite for encouraging your kids to be drug-free if you happened to experiment as a teen. Do you wish someone close to you had better informed you? Be that person for your child..

5. Empower your teen to make choices

No matter how your parenting has been up to this point, it is very important that you empower your teen. Let your teen know you are confident in them. This will help your teens in making the right choices in life.  Create clear expectations and consequences for their behavior to provide your teen with a framework for making good decisions.

But most importantly, let your teenagers know that you love them and are looking out for their safety. Do whatever you can to communicate with your children – it may be the key to raising a drug-free teenager.

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