Talking with your child:

As a parent, you play an important role in preventing teen substance abuse. But talking about substance use with your teens and tweens can be difficult. Here are a few strategies that have worked for other Cambridge parents:

Start a conversation with your teen or tween. dad_son_piano

Communication is key to prevention; talk early and talk often! Not sure how to start the conversation? Here are a few to try:

  • “Did you hear that story on the news? What did you think?”
  • “I found this bottle in your bag. Can we talk about how it got there? What would you do differently next time?”
  • “It seems like that character wasn’t ready to do X. Is this happening in your school? How do your classmates handle situations like this?”
  • “What do you think is a reasonable curfew? What should happen if you’re not home on time?”
Prepare your child.mom_daughter_couch

Start the talk and keep it going. Talking about alcohol or other difficult topics means many ongoing conversations. Create the space for both of you to talk, and let your child do much of the talking. Ask questions and show that you’re listening and hearing what your teen or tween is saying.

Stay open-minded and supportive. 

You can never tell your child that you love him or her too much. You can use that love to open the conversation and let him or her know that you won’t get angry if you both are honest and willing to learn from each other.

Don’t be judgmental.

Try not to jump to conclusions. Asking your teen to walk you through a decision he’s made or will be making.

Admit your mistakes.

Many parents worry about their own early introduction to alcohol or drugs. You may decide to be honest with your child and tell the truth. You can admit your mistakes and turn the discussion back to your teen. Try, “This isn’t about me. It’s about you and making sure that you are safe.” You might also decide not to share your history at this time, and that’s OK!

Be clear.

Make sure your teen knows that you do not want him or her using alcohol or drugs. Talk about why, including the risks of using either.

Talk through boundaries.

Talk about and agree on boundaries and rules, like curfew and privacy. Once agreed upon, these boundaries need to be respected. Be sure your teen is following them and stay true to them yourself.

Set reasonable consequences.

When boundaries are broken, the consequences need to be consistently enforced. But these consequences also need to be reasonable. Setting punishments that are too harsh or severe can undermine your relationship and all of the progress you’re trying to make.

Create a safe word.

Many parents use a safe word or phrase that a teen can use while they’re out with peers. Texting this phrase (or saying it over the phone) lets you know that he or she needs your help getting out of a tough situation.

Practice, practice, practice.

Keep talking with your teen and practice how she might handle tough situations. You can walk through how or when she might be asked to use alcohol or drugs and together, you can work through how to respond. Show that you understand how difficult these situations can be.

Having regular conversations with other parents is important – especially when you need to talk about something you’ve seen or heard about someone else’s child. Talking to another parent about substance use can be tricky, but as parents, role models, and community members, we all have a responsibility to keep Cambridge children safe.


Talking with another parent:

Here are some suggestions on how to raise sensitive issues with another parent:

  • Don’t be judgmental.
  • Admit that this can be awkward, but reinforce the fact that you are telling them because you think it is their business.
  • Find a way to communicate with them when others aren’t around. It may be easiest to do this through email or a private message on Facebook.
  • Keep the information away from other parents and/or children.
  • Be gentle! Remember this can be tough for any parent to hear, and you don’t want to sound like you are accusing them.
  • Be honest.
  • Never appear to be gossiping. Always be genuine.