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My son is going through Middle School, and I just heard that one of his good friends is experimenting with drugs and alcohol. How should I address this?
As nice as it would be, unfortunately, you cannot pick your child’s friends. Early adolescence is when most kids begin to experiment with alcohol. And if they are not already drinking or experimenting with drinking, then they might still be receiving messages and possibly even being peer pressured to drink. Some studies show that about 10% of 12-year-olds say they have tried alcohol, but by age 15, that number jumps to 50%.
While peers certainly exert a lot of influence over kids especially in their teen years, parents still have a lot of influence over their children’s behavior.
Alcohol and drugs are around, and your child will be exposed to it. Talking about it can help them to know how to cope and respond when they are offered alcohol or drugs. Talking about sensitive issues helps children to see that you, the concerned, open, and awesome parent, are comfortable to answer any questions or concerns when they arise. NOT talking about it might make it more appealing to use because it is an off-limits thing that you are not ok with.
If your child has already tried drinking or drugs, open up a discussion in a kind, non-judgmental manner to delineate when the child is more likely to drink or use drugs. This is a great opportunity to develop a safe communication with your child and to figure out how he or she functions! It is important to determine if a child is drinking or using drugs to fit in, to cope with feelings, etc. Talking about it can help the parent and child work together to figure out a different way to fit in or to cope!
You can ask your son questions in a direct but non-confrontational way. Have a conversation about it. Be sure to set limits and boundaries with your son. Knowing where your children are as well as who is supervising them is important at this age.
Be sure to set expectations, limits, and potential consequences around alcohol and drug use.
Pay attention to if there is any change in your son’s behavior, mood, or grades.
Great question! Thank you!
* All responses provided by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.