The teenage years can be a difficult stressful time. Today’s teens are dealing with much larger issues due to society as a whole and the advancements in the internet, texting, and technology. The pressures can be overwhelming. It is highly likely that your teen will be exposed to risky behaviors such as drugs and alcohol. Many teens are tempted to try drugs or alcohol to fit in, out of curiosity, or simply to help cope or self-medicate the difficult emotions of anxiety or depression that often coincide with the turbulent teen years. Most teens do not try drugs and alcohol with the expectation that they will become addicted and drug abusers. However, even occasional use can have harmful consequences that are potentially deadly. The research shows that most parents are not aware of and do not identify their teen’s use until after a year. Many parents will know that their child does not seem the same, but will assume it is just a part of being a “hormonal” teenager. It is critical that parents are involved in their teens’ lives, know who their friends are, know their friends’ parents, and are aware of potential signs of drug use. There is not one single sign that indicates use, but there are warning signs to look for.
Parents, rightfully hover over their toddlers and elementary school age kids to make sure that they are safe. As children become teens, they can take care of themselves and so parents often give their teens much more freedom and assume their child would never try or use drugs. Is your child’s life worth assuming that he/she would never try drugs or alcohol? Experts in drug prevention recommend that parents randomly drug test their teenager periodically. (These drug tests can be purchased at the local drug store.) Just like the safety precautions parents take with their young children like making sure their kids don’t play in the street, random drug testing helps parents keep their children safe. Many parents are uncomfortable with this concept, fearing they are violating their teen’s trust. It’s not saying parents don’t trust their teens, it’s saying they care. Random drug testing helps teens as well, as it provides teenagers with a good excuse to say “no” when they may be encouraged to try drugs. “No, my parents randomly drug test me all the time.” A great strategy to help your teen stay strong against peer pressure is to role play. Practice situations that may arise and allow your teen to rehearse what he/she can say and do in that situation. When practicing, it is helpful if the teen can say “no” in a firm but friendly manner, so they can say “no” to the activity, as opposed to saying “no” to the friendship. The more your teens have a practiced plan, the more likely they will be able to successfully resist peer pressure with confidence when the moment arises. Click here for a helpful guide on “How To Help Your Teen Say “No” To Risky Behaviors.” Parents who stay connected with their teen, set expectations and rules, monitor their teens’ activities and friends; can help their teen successfully navigate the teenage years. Below, are a series of helpful links to websites, handouts, and resources to help parents guide their teens to stay drug free, resist peer pressure, and survive the turbulent teenage years.