Talking to your teen about alcohol or drugs can be scary as a parent, but it is one of the most important conversations you will ever have.Teens are much more approachable if they don’t feel trapped or confined, so before you sit down to talk with your child, make sure you realize you are going to have a conversation and that you aren’t sitting them down to lecture them.


Tips for having a conversation, not a confrontation:

  • Visibly show your concern by expressing how worried you are for your child’s safety
  • Keep a cool head and try not to overreact about past infractions. Focus on the future and your expectations
  • Be direct and clearly list your concerns and why you feel this way
  • Keep a calm tone of voice, even when it may be hard
  • Express how much you value your teens honesty and don’t discredit what they have to say
  • Talk about your own experiences as a teen and how you changed and grew into the person you are
  • Show how much you love your teen. Express this through words and gestures throughout the conversation
  • Set up and use family meetings to best of their ability. use this time to discuss alcohol and drug use


During your conversation make sure to give lots of praise about the good things your teen(s) are doing and how much you appreciate the responsible choices they are making. If your teen feels you are truly listening to them they will open up and share about what is really going on in their lives.

Tips for listening to your child:

  • Create a safe area for your child to be honest, without fear of ridicule or resentment
  • Remove all distractions such as cell phones and other electronic devices
  • Listen to your child when they vent and rephrase what they have expressed to you so they know you are listening
  • Be attentive to topics that may lead into an alcohol or drug conversation, such as your teen stating “I hate when so and so is high at school”
  • Focus on your child and try to see things from their point of view, after all you were a teenager once too
  • Realize your child could be hiding their true feelings out of fear of rejection or fear of getting into trouble
  • Be careful not to take what they say at face value and don’t be afraid to ask questions


Many times when talking with your teen about alcohol or drugs it is very hard to get through the flat denial they present about their own alcohol or drug use. Breaking through their barriers can be hard, but with a little pushing it can be accomplished.

  • Always be firm and loving, not yelling at your teen, but standing your ground
  • Make your teen acknowledge how important it is to you that they tell the truth. Use phrases such as “I respect people who are honest” and “It takes a lot of courage and strength to be honest”
  • If you have proof that your teen is lying, show your teen this proof and ask why they lied
  • Don’t make your teen feel like they are a bad person, instead focus on the behavior and why it is worrisome to you
  • If you teen makes the conversation about you not trusting them, explain that you are willing to have some tough conversations to make sure your teen is safe and healthy
  • Try to find out why your teen lied instead of instantly going to reprimanding them, emphasizing how important it is that they tell the truth no matter what
  • Consider granting your teen immunity from the web of lies they may be caught in and set strict guidelines for what will happen if an infraction occurs again
  • Reward honest behavior now and in the future


Source: The Partnership for a Drug Free America. (2012). Time to Act! Retrieved from