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Teen Alcohol and Marijuana Use on the Rise

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How can we stop our kids from putting themselves at risk?

teens smoking and drinking

new study has found that alcohol and marijuana use among teens is on the rise, ending a decade-long decline. 

Thirty-nine percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 reported drinking alcohol in the last month, and 25 percent reported smoking marijuana in the past 30 days.

Gulp. For mothers, those statistics certainly are alarming. How can we discourage our kids from such risky behaviors? Good communication is key.

Talking to teens about pot

The website Parents: The Anti-Drug has some great sample conversation-starters here, with expert advice on talking to your teen about marijuana, including:

* Take initiative in getting educated about the dangers of today's marijuana and other drugs. Much has changed in the last generation and the risks are much higher. We know a lot more about how marijuana affects a teen's developing brain.

* Encourage your teen's input. Listen to what your teen has to say and don't make value judgments. Teenagers want respect as much as you do.

* If you haven't done so, now is the time to set clear rules and consequences about drug/alcohol use. Explain them to your teen and regularly remind him/her of your expectations.

* Don't expect everything to go smoothly. You have a teenager, and there will be conflict. Just remember to stay calm and loving.

Talking to teens about drinking

MADD recommends the following five steps for parents:

Step 1: Think of yourself as a coach
Your role in preventing underage drinking is similar to coaching. You can help your teen by:

* Sharing information
* Discussing choices and monitoring behavior
* Helping your teen anticipate and handle challenging situations
* Cheering your teen on to make smart, safe choices

Step 2: Get busy communicating
Begin a series of conversations with your son or daughter -- proactively, before he or she gets caught drinking -- about how:

* Alcohol is a drug with serious sedative effects
* Drinking has health dangers and other risks for young people
* It is illegal to drink before the age of 21
* You want your teen to be safe and respect the law
* Your teen can plan ways to resist peer pressure to drink

Step 3: Keep track of your teen
You need to know what your teen does after school, at night and on weekends -- and with whom.

* Agree on rules, limits and consequences
* Monitor all in-person and online activities
* Know your teen's schedule
* Make sure he or she has your permission for activities
* Talk to parents of kids with whom your teen spends time
* Enforce consequences consistently

Step 4: Show respect and caring
Your teen will respond better when you

* Listen respectfully to his or her ideas and concerns
* Explain that rules, limits and consequences are meant to protect them
* Help your teen think logically and make smart choices
* Remind your teen how much you love and care about them

Step 5: Be a positive role model
Your teen will be most receptive to your guidance if you lead by example and act responsibly.

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