Talking with teens is tricky business—but experts say it’s
critical to have open and frank discussions about alcohol and drugs. “Kids
say to me all the time that ‘everybody does it,’ as an excuse.
As parents and community leaders, we need to change the perception that
it’s OK,” says program director Donnie W. Watson, PhD. So
how do we do this? Here are a few suggestions of what to say to your teen:
Not everyone smokes and drinks and it’s certainly NOT OK to drink
or smoke as a teenager. Be very clear that drug and alcohol use lowers motivation, increases depression,
anxiety and social pressures, and is illegal, not to mention a bad crutch
to cultivate when dealing with problems.
The teen brain is still developing. Tell your child her brain will not fully develop until age 25 and at age
15, it is only 60% developed. Using alcohol and drugs, of any kind, is
taking a major risk on her future.
Share stories from your own teenage years. If you used, tell them how bad it made you feel. If you had a friend who
went down the wrong path, talk about how you felt about and/or distanced
yourself from that person. Share what you started to do instead of using.
If you had social anxiety, how did you deal with it? If you experienced
peer pressure, what helped you find confidence?
Ask him about his dreams and help him to become motivated—in healthy ways—to reach them.
Talk with her about how you strive to live in moderation. Model restraint at home and talk about a night when you had only one glass
of wine at a party because you had a tennis match in the morning. Share
and model how you navigate moderation.
Talk about why some people become addicts and others don’t. Some children just can’t stop at one, as their brains are different
(some adults also). Use teachable moments. For instance, if Uncle Randy
drank an entire bottle of scotch at Christmas and fell down the stairs,
talk to your child about how Uncle Randy, who is an alcoholic, suffered
from depression as a child and used in high school and how it made you
feel. Then model moderation every time Uncle Randy visits.
Let your child know you are there for him and that you will not punish him for talking with you about friends who
use or situations that make him feel awkward. Insist he calls a cab, Uber,
or you and never gets in a car with an intoxicated friend. Stress he should
never accept a “dab” or substance that may be laced with unknown substance
For information on Torrance Memorial Thelma McMillen Teen Outpatient Program,
please call 310-257-5760.