Maybe you found pills in your daughter’s backpack. Or your teen staggered home late and clearly high. Take a deep breath. You need to have a conversation you never imagined when you brought home that little bundle of joy.
As shocked or angry as you feel in the moment, the next best step is to pause – unless you fear your child is in immediate danger. If possible, take the time to prepare yourself for a difficult confrontation.
Dos and Don’ts for Making it an Impactful Conversation
Do: Talk with your spouse/partner/co-parent first and commit to joining forces. It’s essential to present a united and loving front.
Don’t: Blame or undermine each other.
Do: Gather evidence, including any drugs you’ve found and any specific behavior changes, such as dropping grades and quitting activities.
Don’t: Assume you know exactly what your teen is doing.
Do: Wait for the right time and place – in private when there’s time to talk at length.
Don’t: Have a confrontation when your teen is under the influence, in a public place or without gathering your thoughts.
Do: Be specific and factual about changes you’ve observed in your teen.
Don’t: Make sweeping or general accusations.
Do: Prepare for your teen to be on the offensive. If you drink alcohol or smoke, be ready for your teen to call you out for your own behavior.
Don’t: Ignore points they make. Instead, use their accusations or observations as an opportunity to further the discussion.
Do: Listen and try to understand what your teen is going through.
Don’t: Do all of the talking or dwell on points once they’ve been made.
Do: Explain consequences of drug use in a factual way. Spell out your rules and consequences.
Don’t: Threaten your teen with unrealistic punishments.
Do: Stay calm and offer your complete support, including addiction recovery resources.
Don’t: Force an immediate response from your teen.
Do: Expect anger, denial and accusations of distrust. Resolve to remain calm.
Don’t: Respond with anger or argue with your teen.
Do: Express how much you care and that your love is unconditional.
Don’t: Try to make your teen feel guilty or ashamed.
If you are concerned that your child may have a substance use disorder, call (402) 717-HOPE.
Originally Published April 2019. Revised July 2022.