While the doctors at Your Family Medical spend their fair share of time bandaging up, administering shots, and discussing medication, we’re also dedicated to educating our patients and families. In fact, sometimes the education offers more health and healing than a prescription or band-aid ever could.
One of the topics that we feel is critical to offer resources and education on is that of substance abuse. To that end, our family medicine Lewisville TX team (locations also in Benbrook, Boyd, Bedford and Justin) put together this brief overview on how to talk about substance abuse with your teen.
When is the Right Age?
According to ongoing studies [most recently done in 2020] on trends in prevalence of various drugs, 37.3% of 10th graders have experimented with illicit drugs in their lifetime. That same study reports 8th graders to be at 21.3%. These numbers would indicate that the “earlier the better” mindset may be helpful when trying to decide the right age for talking with your teen about substance abuse.
We encourage each parent or guardian to evaluate their family situation individually. If the topic comes up organically prior to high school, engage with them at their level. If it doesn’t, be intentional about finding ways to have conversations about alcohol, drugs and peer pressure no later than the summer going into your teen’s Freshman year along with other high school related conversations.
Where to Begin
Often, the biggest hurdle in having the substance abuse conversation with your teen is simply beginning it. We find that this is another point that requires parents or guardians to each allow their own unique family values to guide them. Some of our top recommendations for you to consider include:
- Allow your teen to guide the conversation. Let them share what they have heard or seen and give them the freedom to ask any questions they might have.
- Start a “risky conversation” tradition at a specific point in the week. Maybe your family eats dinner together or has a family game night once a week. Whatever it is, make it a point to integrate “taboo” topics into the event so it becomes the norm.
- Start with a clear WHY. Consider beginning the conversation about substance abuse by talking about why the topic is important. Even if that reason is simply that you want to keep encouraging open lines of communication, the “why” is what ties your relationship to the topic, which gives it meaning.
If you are still struggling with where to begin, don’t be afraid to invite your doctor into the conversation. The next annual physical or sports physical, make a note for your doctor to bring up the topic with your son or daughter and offer educational resources. If you don’t currently have a family doctor, our general practitioner Lewisville TX team (locations also in Bedford, Benbrook, Boyd and Justin) are accepting new patients and would love to help.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Every parent is at least a tiny bit terrified of the moment that their son or daughter might ask them about their own experience(s) with alcohol or drugs. Our #1 tip is simply this: Don’t panic! (Easier said than done, we know.) There’s no one right or wrong answer that covers this topic for every family.
- If you decide to share details of your experiences with your teen, be honest but don’t glamorize them.
- If you decide to keep details of your experiences to yourself, we still encourage you to incorporate authenticity and honesty by talking about what you are comfortable sharing.
If You Suspect They May Be Using
There may come a time that you have reason to believe that your son or daughter is experimenting with alcohol or drugs. As a parent or guardian, that can be a terrifying thought. We encourage you to stay calm and approach this suspicion the same way you would any other concern: with love and logic.
- Sit your son or daughter down and communicate with them what you’re observing.
- Give them the opportunity to have an honest conversation about what is going on.
- Be direct and share with them the dangers of substance abuse and offer support.
If you believe your teen’s situation may be need more attention, reach out to your family doctor to get next steps or a referral.
Raising kids is tough and the cliché is true: it takes a village. If you already consider Your Family Medical a part of your village, we are honored. If you have a gap in your village right now and are looking to fill it with a high-quality family practice, we would love to meet with you and see if we could be a good fit for your family. Call today to schedule your first appointment with a team that truly cares!