Let’s face it, talking to teenagers about nearly anything—let alone drug use—is far from easy. The last thing they want is their parents confronting them about using heroin.
Whether you found a heroin kit in your child’s bedroom or you recognized the physical and behavioral symptoms, it’s time to have a serious talk. But how do you approach your teen without getting a door slammed in your face?
1. Create A Defensive-Free Zone
Threats or rants will get you tuned out in the blink of an eye. Choose a time when you’re not stressed or rushed, and if your teen is open to the idea, consider spending some quality time watching a movie or eating out. After the credits roll, express your concern and ask what’s been going on. Pick a place that’s private and out of earshot of siblings or other family members.
2. Map Out A Plan
Decide who’s going to talk with your teen—you, your spouse, or both of you. Plan what you’re going to say. Write it out. Practice it in front of the mirror. Anticipate different scenarios from your angst-ridden teen. Prepare responses for 1) vehement denials about using heroin, 2) claims of experimentation or a passing phase, and/or 3) admitting to needing help.
3. Keep Emotions In Check
It’s easy for the conversation to go from telling your teen you’re worried to shouts, arguments, and hurt feelings. This may be one of the toughest conversations you’ll ever have with your child, and your emotions are bound to go haywire. It’s okay for your teen to see the concern in your face, but if you’re so emotional that you can’t hold your composure, you won’t make headway.
4. Tell Your Teen What You See
Let your teen know you’ve found blatant evidence, like syringes, burnt spoons, or the drug itself. Explain any signs and symptoms you’ve noticed, like a change in appearance, failing grades, or needle tracks. Teens using drugs often cut ties with good friends and drop out of sports or activities they used to love. Point out that all of these things make you suspicious. Whether your child admits to using or not, he or she at least needs to know you know what’s up.
5. Be Prepared For Denial
It’s a fact: drug users lie. They’ll say anything to convince others they’re not using drugs. Even if you’re holding a bag of heroin you found in a dresser drawer, your teen will slap the blame on someone else. If your child becomes agitated and you’re not getting anywhere, table the conversation for later. Show your teen that actions have consequences, like grounding, removal of a cell phone, or freezing the weekly allowance.
6. Anticipate Teenage Rage
When teens discover their parents have gone through their rooms, personal belongings, or phones, they might fire back with accusations like “You’re violating my privacy,” or “You don’t trust me!”. Acknowledge that you love your teen and that you did what you did out of concern, but don’t get sucked into an argument. You’re doing what you can to help your child.
7. Present The Facts
Heroin use isn’t pretty. Give your teen the cold, hard facts—don’t sugarcoat them. Research the effects and dangers of heroin, including fatal overdose. Let them read about it. Show them pictures of long-term heroin users. Point out no one is immune to the dangers of heroin use, not even idolized celebrities who have ruined their careers or died from drug addiction. Heroin doesn’t discriminate—anyone can become addicted and any user risks overdosing, especially when users take bigger doses to get the same high as their bodies develop tolerance over time.
8. Show Unconditional Love
Many teens reject parental affection, but they need to recognize that they’re loved unconditionally. Don’t accept or excuse your teen’s drug use, but let your loved one know that you’ll always be there to talk and that you’re willing to help your teen however you can.
9. Listen Compassionately
Your talk may lead to a conversation about drug use or related problems, from school and friends to issues with you. Come up with a plan to tackle any concerns. Teens need empathy from people who won’t dismiss their problems.
10. Get Support
You’ve taken an important step by reading up on how to talk to your teen about heroin use. You don’t have to go through it alone! Contact your child’s doctor or look into family counseling or rehab facilities. There are professionals who can help you and your teen.
Talking to your teen about using drugs is challenging, but with your support, your loved one can get back on the right path.
Featured photo credit: HighwayStarz via bigstockphoto.com