You might be thinking that it’s a good idea to talk to the youth in your life about substance use disorders or mental health but are unsure how to go about it. Before you start, it is important to realize that every person is different and no two conversations will be the same. Hopefully, these general guidelines will be helpful and provide a good start for you.
It is very easy to do a quick search on google and find many articles surrounding prescription drug abuse. It’s easy to get caught up in the articles and analyzing those around you looking for any warning signs of abuse. It’s essential to know some warning signs and dangers of abuse before you start analyzing.
Signs of potential abuse:
- A sudden drop in grades
- You no longer know what your child is doing during the day or after school
- Acquiring a new friend group
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Lack of concern for personal hygiene
- Change in sleeping and eating habits
- General behavior changes
These are some potential signs your child might be struggling, but these signs could also be for a different reason; everyone is different. It is important to trust your instincts since you know your child the best and to ask questions without directly confronting your child. To foster an open and honest conversation, you can start with the following questions to have a positive dialogue with your child.
- There’s a lot of media surrounding prescription drug misuse, what do you know about this issue?
- Are you aware of what the consequences are to misusing prescription medications?
- Does your school take part in a drug prevention program and if so, what have you learned from it?
- Do you talk about drug misuse in your health classes? What have you learned from that?
- Do you know the difference between a prescription and an over-the-counter medication? Do you know what an opioid is?
The above questions will help you get a conversation started while encouraging youth who might be hesitant to discuss their issues. Discussing what knowledge they have on the topic allows for a good discussion and follow-up questions. Having an open and honest conversation will make youth more comfortable and less resistant if they believe they are being confronted.
Before the conversation, creating a list of conversation goals could be beneficial. Doing this will give you a general idea of what you want to discuss with your child. You can leave space after each goal so you can reflect after the conversation; seeing what went well and what could be improved will help for the next conversation. You can use your reflections for future discussions.
Here are some helpful quick tips and ideas to put you at ease before your conversation and get you motivated.
- Ask open-ended questions – whether you choose to use the above questions or create some of your own, it is helpful to ask open-ended questions because these spark dialogue and encourage the child to participate, and maybe even ask questions of their own
- Pay attention to body language – check to see if your child’s body language is closed off or open; you might need to either reassess and end the conversation or try to move the conversation in a different direction
- Support your child – reminders that you’re there for support and are listening with an open mind can help put them at ease and make them open up more
- Commend them – a simple praising of their knowledge can boost their self-esteem and encourage them to keep the conversation going rather than closing off
- Share your history – discussing with your child the differences in information you were given when you were a child compared to the array of information available today can help create a good discussion
- Paraphrase what they said – summarizing what they said and making sure you understood everything shows them that you were listening to what they had to say along with showing them that you value their input
- Use non-verbal clues – smiling and nodding along to the conversation shows that you are actively listening to them
- Be respectful – being respectful of differing opinions makes the child feel comfortable with sharing them
For more information on how to have difficult conversations with your kids and for other resources, please check out https://drugfree.org/.