Teen talk: alcohol and cigarettes

Scenario: Your high-schooler comes home smelling of alcohol or cigarette smoke for the first time.

This is the time when teenagers are experimenting.  From alcohol, to cigarettes, to smoking pot, to huffing….  Some want to try mind-altering substances to help relieve the stress of teenage life.  Some are intrigued by the feelings promised from drugs and alcohol.  Some are doing it because they want to look cool, others are doing it so they don’t look stupid in front of their friends.

Nobody wants to believe it’s their teen.  And truth is, not all teens are doing it.  But to a teenager, all teens ARE doing it, and that only adds to the enticement of doing it themselves.  And it’s something parents must address with their teens.

So how to deal?  Yell?  Scream?  Take the car, their privacy, their freedom, their cell phone away for a specified period of time?  What’s going to make them decide to stop smoking or drinking alchohol.

Truth is, nothing is going to MAKE them stop doing anything.  But your reaction is going to help guide them in their own decision making skills, giving them tools to decide for themselves whether or not they want to continue drinking or smoking.

Here’s what timetotalk.org recommends:

“The response should be measured, quiet and serious—not yelling, shouting or overly emotional,” says parenting expert Marybeth Hicks. “Your child should realize that this isn’t just a frustrating moment like when he doesn’t do a chore you asked for; it’s very big, very important, and very serious.”
Say, “I’m really upset that you’re smoking/drinking. I need to get a handle on how often this has been happening and what your experiences have been so far. I get that you’re worried about being in trouble, but the worst part of that moment is over—I know that you’re experimenting. The best thing you can do now is really be straight with me, so for starters, tell me about what happened tonight…”

Side note:  I actually perused the Time to Talk website, and found a ton of information vital to parents of teens.  They even have a free downloadable PDF of a “Parent Talk Kit” that gives many real examples of talkable moments, and how to handle each one. 

How would you deal if your teen came home smelling like alcohol or cigarettes?

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