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Communication breakdown?

If you have a teenage child, you know that getting a teen to listen can be a full-time job—and a challenging one at that. But your ability to communicate—and to listen—is also one of your most powerful tools in making sure your teen stays away from drugs. In fact, experts say that parents are the most effective deterrent to drug abuse by their children.

Parents can influence teens’ decisions by not using drugs themselves, providing guidance and clear rules and spending time with children during both good and bad times. Teenage years are full of change and temptation, and it’s important for your child to know he or she can rely on you. Keep the lines of communication open by:

  • Talking with your child honestly about the dangers of drugs.
  • Really listening instead of just hearing your child talk. Encourage your child to share questions and concerns about drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
  • Finding ways to help your child cope with peer pressure. Discuss the importance of being an individual and the meaning of friendship. Help your teen understand it’s not necessary to do something wrong to feel accepted.
  • Discussing expectations that your teen will say “no” to drugs if confronted. Spell out what will happen if he or she breaks these rules and be prepared to follow through.
  • Finding ways to get your child involved in sports, hobbies, school clubs and other activities that reduce boredom and excess free time.
  • Helping your child develop self-confidence. Praise both efforts and successes.
  • Talking about family values. Teach your child how to make decisions based on standards of right and wrong.
  • Living by example, because actions speak louder than words.
  • Being street smart. Educate yourself about how the drugs work, their street names, signs of being under the influence, what indicates overdose and what to do if overdose occurs.

Believing you will allow—or ignore—drug use increases the likelihood that your child will try drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. Positive self-esteem, supportive family relationships with positive role models and good communication and problem-solving skills help prevent teens from abusing substances.