A couple of months ago, I spent a reasonable amount of time attempting to connect with a family to conduct an alcohol and drug assessment on their 16 year old daughter. We scheduled the assessment only for her to runaway again from home. She was picked up by the police and placed in a facility awaiting a court hearing. The next morning I arrived at the facility to conduct the assessment where I was informed that she had run away from the facility. A week later she was found dead due to a substance-related cause.
You have a right and responsibility to ask questions,investigate and set limits on and for your teen. These are often the foundations for keeping your teen drug and alcohol-free. Do not make the mistake of falling into the trap of “wanting to respect my teen’s privacy.” Get in your teen’s business!
Now that you know what behaviors concern you and what you want changed, it is important that you stay calm and focus on the behaviors and not on your teen as a person. You do not want to have this conversation when your teen is high or drunk, or when you are angry as well as when you are busy with anything else that can cause a distraction. Prepare yourself for your teen’s reaction. If during or after this conversation you are not convinced that your teen is telling the truth, have your teen take a drug test. Do not simply take your teen’s word that he or she is not using.
To keep the conversation moving toward an effective plan for change, listen to your teen as much as you talk. While you have concerns, often valid, you do not have all the answers. Listening will give you more to work with! This conversation is an effective first-line informal intervention. Sometimes communicating your concern for your teen’s health and safety and your desired change plan is a good first step. Try not too cram a laundry list of behaviors into your first drug and alcohol talk with your teen. Be mindful of the atmosphere. If the conversation is getting too emotionally charged, it is okay to take a short break before you communicate a change plan. No matter what plan you and your teen come to, you must continue to verify and monitor the plan and the behavior to ensure the change.