Today’s changing social environment and confusing messages about drugs and alcohol may be making it even more difficult for teenagers to get their bearings as they move toward adulthood. That is why it is more important than ever for parents to know what is going on in their kids’ lives and have the skills to respond to their teens appropriately.
Specifically, as drugs and alcohol are becoming more accessible and more states are legalizing marijuana, many teens may believe that the use of marijuana or other substances is now okay. Parents should know that legalization of marijuana does not mean it is harmless, and increased availability of other substances does not make them less harmful, either. Marijuana and other substances can cause permanent damage to the teenage brain, and teens can become addicted more quickly than adults.
This is a time when parents need to become involved in their teens’ lives and help them navigate these complex issues. While many parents may think of their teens as grown-ups and able to fully take care of themselves, teenagers have said that this is a time when they need their parents the most. Asking questions and being involved shows teenagers that their parents care.
“Even though teens may sometimes indicate otherwise, through my experience as a psychiatrist to teenagers, I have found that most of them want their parents involved in their lives to provide guidance and support,” says Dr. Thomas Wright, chief medical officer at Rosecrance, one of the country’s leading teen substance abuse treatment centers. “Teens want their parents to actively parent them and provide them guidance they need, including direction around substances.”
Studies have shown that parents who play an active role in the lives of their teens can positively impact their children’s behavior and influence them to cease or abstain from ever using substances. In contrast, research shows that teens whose parents expect them to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking and using drugs are more likely to do so.
“It is critical that parents understand their role and take conscious measures to support their teens in living a healthy and happy life,” Wright says. “Parents should ask what their teens are doing, address the pressures they are facing, act immediately when they suspect their teen is in trouble, and advocate for help if their teen needs it to help them live a healthy life.”
Starting a conversation with a teen about substances can be daunting. It can be even more overwhelming for a parent when their teenage child approaches them with questions before they have had a chance to prepare. For a helpful guide to talking with a teenager about marijuana visit www.rosecrance.org/teens-weed.