Talk to Your Teen About Drugs and Alcohol

March 20-26 is Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW).  What does that mean?  That means that each year, we want to encourage people to talk about drug use and addiction among youth.

Did you know that the average age teenage boys first try alcohol is at 11?  For girls, it’s 13.  The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) states that 64% of teens have tried illegal drugs by the time they are in 12th grade.  61% of them have abused alcohol.  Talk to your teen early and often about the dangers of drug and alcohol.  Over 20% will have used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose.

Adults have a big impact on teens, and parents have the biggest influence.  Having a strong and open relationship with a parent is the best way to prevent your teens from risky behaviors such as drugs and alcohol.  Talk Heart 2 Heart,, has tools to guide parents in talking with their kids.  You will find resources for parenting, how to talk to your child, and connections to local prevention networks in and around the Four Corners district.

Here are some tips from Talk Heart 2 Heart for talking with your teen:

  • Make sure you are both ready. Let them know you want to talk.
  • Look for opportunities to bring it up. Use the things around you.  If a topic comes up on TV, on the radio, or in a book, use it as a way to lead into the subject.
  • Prepare ahead of time. Talk with other adults – your spouse, people you work with, or friends.  It’s okay to be nervous – your kids are too!  Practice ahead of time.
  • Find a neutral space. Find somewhere that you may not have to make constant eye contact – like the car.  Don’t make assumptions.  Just ask if there’s something they want to know, or how they might feel about a specific subject.
  • Be patient. Give them time to say what they need to.  Listen actively and repeat back what they tell you.  It helps them know you are understanding what they are saying.
  • Be honest and sincere. Build trust – kids can recognize when people are not being honest or open, and may close communication if they don’t have that trust.
  • Set boundaries. If you bring up something that might get a little heated, calmly state the issue you’d like to focus on first, and discuss the other issues later.
  • Validate feelings and be empathetic. Meet them where they are.  Don’t interrupt or shame.
  • Use “I Feel…” statements. Avoid using “You…” statements.  Guide your kids to do the same.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. Issues may seem bigger to a kid than they do to you.  Help them build perspective.  Issues may seem big to them now, but it changes.  Give them hope!
  • Don’t overreact. Keep your cool.  Calmly let them know you can talk about it when you’re both in a better place.
  • Follow up. Kids need time to process.  If you check in later, they may be feeling relief after you talk.  It also helps build deeper trust.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has some great activities to help you have a conversation with your child, student, or young person you provide care for:

If you suspect your child has a problem with drug and alcohol use, and you are unsure how to help them, or handle the situation, the Nebraska Family Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free.  They can help you deescalate a situation and provide resources to help you move forward.  You can reach them at any time at (888) 866-8660.

Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol.  Raising humans is hard, and you can do it!  For more information or a talk on this subject, contact Four Corners at (402) 362-2621 or email at  Learn more about why Nebraska Needs You on Instagram @FC_HealthDept!