The teenage years can be difficult to navigate and can pose considerable obstacles. During the teenage and young adult years, peer pressure is a guiding force. While peer pressure can provide positive outcomes, like exposure to diversity and cultures and making informed choices, peer pressure can also have negative outcomes– especially when it comes to drug and alcohol use.
The statistics concerning drug use among teenagers is showing that drug use is starting younger than in previous generations. For instance, the average age for first use of alcohol is 12 years of age and first use of marijuana is 14 years of age. Marijuana use among teenagers in increasing with the advent of medical marijuana legislation and more lenient attitudes toward marijuana. Additionally, with the continued advances in social media, peer pressure has gone digital:
- 75% of teens said seeing pictures of teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on social networking sites encouraged them to do the same.
- 45% of teens said they have seen these party-promoting pictures online, 47% of whom said the kids in the pictures were having a good time.
- Teens who saw images of partying were four times more likely to have used marijuana, more than three times likelier to have used alcohol, and almost three times more likely to have used tobacco.
It is important for parents to take be proactive, in both identifying potential drug use behaviors, and in finding ways to talk about drug and alcohol use.
Talking to Your Teen About Drugs and Alcohol
Sometimes, as parents, you don’t really know how to approach your teens to discuss drugs or alcohol. Having open discussions about drug and alcohol use are serious, but with the right approach, the outcome can be positive. Regardless of whether you suspect your teen is using drugs and alcohol, or know that he or she is, build on your relationship and have an open dialog about drugs and alcohol.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you and your child talk openly about life issues?
- Does your child express comfort in discussing struggles with you?
- Do you feel there is a mutual respect?
- Is your teen accustomed to your giving input on his life?
Based on your answers to those questions, you can devise a plan to speak to your teenager about substance use.
Some Tips To Keep in Mind….
Be a Blank Slate—Do not make assumptions. Actively listen to what your teenager has to say, and give
him your undivided attention.
Express Your Concerns—Inform your teenager as to how drugs and alcohol can affect him. Giving your teen the pertinent information they need about drugs and alcohol can make be very important.
Be Compassionate— Convey that you understand it can be difficult to make your own choices. Try to show your teen that you are not judging, or projecting.
Do Not Share Personal Drug Stories—A study published in the Human Communication Research Journal found that kids are more likely to feel drug and alcohol experimentation is more acceptable when parents disclosed their own history of drug use.You are not a hypocrite for encouraging your kids to be drug-free when you experimented as a teen.
Empowerment—Give your child the self-confidence and self-love he needs to help him navigate his teen years.