Do you worry about your teen's use of drugs and alcohol? Do you think they may be influenced by peer pressure and get themselves into dangerous situations?
There's two schools of thought on this topic. One is zero tolerance. Which says that any amount of drug or alcohol usage is dangerous under the age of 18 and should be prevented at all costs. This is the perspective of schools, police, and some parenting organisations. I believe this is only effective as a parent if you practice this yourself.
The other school of thought is harm minimisation. This perspective says that with some teens, it's nearly impossible to prevent them from using alcohol or other drugs. You say no and make rules, then they jump out of the window and go get trashed anyway.
Harm minimisation says that if teens are going to drink, take drugs, and have sex regardless then let's educate them so they stay safe.
So here's my 3 tips for teens to party safe...
Be honest first with yourself about how drugs and alcohol affect your own life. If you drink every day or drink to avoid dealing with problems, first look at how you can make changes in your own life. Your teen won't listen to advice that you don't follow yourself.
Give information about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the teenage brain. Don't over-exaggerate or give only the worst examples. If you tell your teen that smoking marijuana will always cause schizophrenia and then they meet a long time smoker who is functional, they will cease to believe any other information you have given them. Give them real information. Scare tactics don't work.
Let them know that they can be honest with you. If they have tried something and it went wrong or they got themselves into a dangerous situation, such as getting into a car with a drink driver, then you want them to be able to come to you for support and guidance. If they are scared of your reaction or getting into trouble, they will only hide things from you.
Discuss honestly why parental supervision is so important. The teenage brain has not yet developed to be able to make connections between risks and consequences and has a lower tolerance for risk-taking. Alcohol or drugs will make this risk tolerance even less. Unsafe sexual behaviour or drink driving has life long consequences. You care about keeping them safe. Stay strong with these boundaries.
2. Harm minimisation
Educate yourself first and then share this information with your teen.
Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or soft drink. Less is more!! A little bit is often a whole lot more fun than pushing the limits. Look after each other. Have one sober person who is the designated driver and also in charge in the case of emergency. Give them information about the effects of different drugs on the brain and how to mediate this. For example, if they take drugs that are going to cause a spike in their serotonin levels (e.g. ecstasy pills), then they will experience a drop in these levels the next day. This is not going to last forever!! (I knew a beautiful young man who always seemed happy and cheerful, but committed suicide the Tuesday after a big drug taking weekend). Know what drugs are safer to mix and what drugs are more dangerous to mix.
If they are bored or disheartened with life they are more likely to get their fix of fun and excitement through drugs and alcohol. Everyone enjoys to party and socialising is a great part of life. You don't need drugs or alcohol to have fun, but most of us know how to indulge in healthy moderation.
Balance is key. If your teen is inspired about the life they would love to create, if they enjoy a range of activities, if they have the self-belief to vision more for their life than a never ending party, they will be less likely to fall into addiction and over-use. Talk to them about what a healthy balanced life looks like – satisfying and meaningful work, happy relationships, hobbies and interests, fun, fun, and fun. Being healthy in mind and body will enable them to create the a life they love, including a financially secure and satisfying vocation, and will reduce the risk of them needing to rely on drugs and alcohol to have excitement and adventure in their life.
If you would like to improve your communication with your teen, set and maintain strong healthy boundaries, and better manage conflict, then the FREE 5 day Mindful Mums program is for you.
Click here to sign up.
Comment below with your thoughts on this topic. I'd love to know what you think.