5 conversation goals

What to say? Start with this.

Does it matter if you talk to your kids about drug and alcohol use? Yes! Over 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the biggest influence on whether to drink or not.

So how do you talk to your teens about this important subject? Keep these objectives in mind.


Make them feel valued.

Your motive is key. You want your teen to realize you’re having this conversation because you care about their health, wellness and success.


Voice your disapproval.

It’s very important that your kid understands that you think underage drinking and substance use are wrong. Don’t assume they know how you feel about it. Tell them in very clear terms.


Share the facts.

This is no time to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Prepare beforehand so that you’re equipped with reliable information. If your teen doesn’t view what you say as trustworthy, then they won’t listen.


Show you notice.

When teenagers think no one is paying attention, they’re more likely to engage in risky behavior. By asking them questions about their activities and friends, you become aware of what’s going on in their world and they realize you’re interested in it. Just be careful not to invade their privacy and avoid making it seem like you’re prying into their business all the time.


Equip them.

Build up your kid’s skills and strategies to say no to drugs, drinking and other negative peer pressure. Talk about real-life scenarios they may experience and have practice sessions.

You don’t have to cover all five goals in one discussion. In fact, it’s more effective to have frequent, shorter talks than one long conversation. Want specific guidance for different substances? Check out our Parent Guides.

One last tip: These goals don’t just apply when you’re talking about drugs and alcohol. The principles are helpful when you and your teen are discussing anything—like friends, school and their future. Keep them in mind whenever you bring up a subject and it should go much more smoothly.

Adapted from underagedrinking.samhsa.gov

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