A common, frightening worry of a lot of parents is drugs. If you suspect that your teen is using drugs, it can be a testing time and you will be full of many worries. So, what can you do when you find out your teenager is using drugs?
Confront the situation
The first thing you need to do is confront the situation, however this needs to be done in the right way. It is a vital conversation to have, so make sure you are prepared beforehand. If you only suspect at this stage, take time to prepare. However, if you have caught your teenager, or found out from another means then allow yourself time to cool down and think before you speak.
Unfortunately, parents may feel the urge to lash out as their own emotions take centre fold. This can be damaging for the teenager, and often damage your relationship.
First, Be Understanding
This involves several aspects of understanding. Firstly, you need to write questions down that will help you to understand why your teenager has chosen to use drugs. That will help you to put yourself in their shoes and be able to help them more.
Secondly, you need to research the drugs, as well as the way the brain structure develops. During teenage years, the brain changes a lot, right up until the mid 20s. So, if substance use is occurring, this can damage a teen’s brain in the long term and can lead to learning difficulties and health problems.
There are some great resources available so that you can learn more about the specific drugs. Teen’s Health is a great place to start, and teens themselves can read up after you have. Talk to Frank also has an A-Z list of drugs and everything you need to know about them.
Have a Conversation With Your Teenager
Next is the uncomfortable part. You need to have a conversation with your teenager. Remember that you should stay calm, and your teen will likely react angrily. Create a safe space around you to have the conversation, and ensure your child isn’t intoxicated or under the influence when it happens.
Get to their level, so if they are sitting, sit with them. Don’t cross your arms or show angry body language. It’s important that all distractions, such as phones or TV are off and out of the way so that there aren’t any interruptions. If you have prepared, you should know what you want to say and what you want the outcome to be.
Stay calm throughout the conversation, as much as you are worried, and feeling a mixture of emotions at your teenager, getting angry or frustrated at them won’t help in this situation. Speak calmly and come to them from a place of love and concern, so you can show your support to them.
What’s happened has happened, so focus on taking the right steps for the future. It’s important here to listen to your teenager too, especially when you ask them why they started using drugs. This is your chance to really take on board their reasonings, so you can both learn and focus on more informed choices for the future. If you both hit a wall, then take a break and arrange to talk when your heads are clearer later in the day.
Illustrate Your Concern And Support
During the conversation, make sure you express your concern, as well as how much you care. Let them know that the reason behind the talk, is because you want your teenager to be safe, healthy and happy. Illustrate to them that you want them to be honest, and that you will listen without judgements or getting angry with them. Throughout the conversation, demonstrate compassion so that your teenager sees that you are trying to understand their situation.
Open ended questions always have more success, rather than simple yes or no questions. Your teenager may have a lot on their mind, and they can use this opportunity to open up to you. However, do be mindful that your child may not open up completely, through fear or embarrassment. Therefore, it’s vital to read and listen between the words. Look at their body language and facial expressions.
Whilst you are talking, don’t forget that physical connection is important. Perhaps you could place your hand on theirs or give them a hug when it’s appropriate. You will want to show your concerns, naturally, so make sure you present them in a non-judgemental way. You may want to mention any uncharacteristic behaviour that you’ve noticed, but also ensure you praise them too. For example, you could explain you’ve noticed their concentration has been lacking, but also mention how helpful they have been around the house, etc.
There will naturally be barriers, such as your teenager worrying about being truly open, or lying and denying the drug use. If this is the case, you will need to just reassure them that you care for them and want them to stay healthy and happy. Don’t punish them for lying, they will feel more scared than you realise. Thank them for opening up or talking when they do.
In terms of addressing the drug use, and how to move forwards, you will need to discuss limits, and goals for yourself and the teenager to focus on. It’s also important to share your findings too, so that your teenager is more informed. Of course, they will need consequences, but also put in place some positive reinforcement too.
Unfortunately, there will not just be one conversation. You will need to regularly check in with your teenager to review your goals. You will also need to frequently assess rules and their consequences to keep them on track.
If you noted from your conversation that your teenager is struggling with their mental health and could benefit from a therapist, then get in touch today. I specialise in teenage mental health and can offer your child a safe space to open up.
You may also benefit by reading our blog on teenage mental health here.