It’s a situation that no parent wants to face, but it happens: Finding drugs in your child’s room. Perhaps it was a weed pen left on their nightstand, or drugs hidden in a sock drawer. Maybe you found a stash tucked neatly away under your teenager’s bed. You probably feel scared, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. You may be asking—What is the best approach for confronting your child about drugs?
As scary as it is to discover your child is using drugs, try to remain calm. You do not yet have full context into the situation—how much they are using, or if they are selling drugs, for example—so try not to panic yet. It’s important to have an honest, collected conversation with your teen before taking action.
Your initial reaction might be to yell at and punish your child—to “confront” them about what you’ve found. However, this can actually detriment your ability to get more information out of your teen. If you begin the conversation with a confrontation, you may end up pushing your teenager away. And if this happens, you will struggle to build trust and honesty about delicate topics like this.
So, what’s the right away to confront your child about drugs? In this guide, you’ll find tips on how to approach your son or daughter about their substance use.
When to Approach Your Child About Drugs
Parents shouldn’t delay when talking to their child about potential drug abuse. While it’s important for you to take a moment to reflect, talk to your spouse, and get educated, consider approaching your child sooner than later. This can help ensure they stay safe and prevent drug use from progressing.
When you feel ready to confront your son or daughter, remember to stay calm and collected. You will want your child to be in a good state of mind as well—for example, not intoxicated or angry at the start. This will set the tone for a more positive conversation. Additionally, plan to have this conversation at a time when you know there is no where to be, and no interruptions around. At home, in a quiet place, on a day without many plans is a good time to consider having “the talk.”
7 Tips for Confronting Your Child About Drugs
- Take a moment to re-collect.
Whether you found drugs minutes or hours ago, you are likely feeling emotional and angry. This can lead to a volatile conversation, so try to resist the urge to confront your teen right now. Instead, take time for yourself—cool down, collect your thoughts, and figure out exactly what you want to say to your teen.
- Get on the same page as your partner.
If you share parenting responsibilities, it is important to get on the same page as the other person about substance abuse. Tell your parenting partner about what you found, and then take time to agree on how you will broach the subject. Think about the position you’d like to take on the matter, the rules and consequences you’d like to set for your teen, and your goals for the conversation. Avoid placing any blame on one another, and remind each other that this conversation should come from a place of love and concern.
- Gather evidence and education.
As a parent, it’s important to prepare yourself for this conversation. One way you can do so is by educating yourself about drugs—and also about the current situation in your home. If you’ve already found drugs in your child’s room, then you already have some evidence to support your case. However, your teen could easily brush this off as “I am holding those drugs for someone else” or “I haven’t used them.” Though this may be true, try to think back about your child’s recent behaviors and state of mind. Have they shown any signs of drug use? For example:
- Changing friend groups
- Oversleeping more than usual
- Withdrawing from family, old friends, or hobbies
- Bloodshot or watery eyes
- Breaking curfew
- Acting irrationally, such as being overly angry or defensive
You can read more signs of teen drug use here. Once you recap evidence of any drug use, you should then educate yourself on drugs more generally. Consider researching online, talking with your family doctor, or reaching out to an addiction treatment center that specializes in youth drug use. Discuss the dangers of drug use, the types of drugs you found, and the level of concern you should have as a parent.
- Prepare for a difficult conversation.
As calm and readied as you might feel going into the conversation, it’s likely that you will experience some backlash from your child. Your child will most likely be angry at first – specifically, angry if you snooped around their room or went through their things. Your teen may call you a hypocrite and ask if you’ve ever tried or experimented with drugs before. Try to stay strong and let your child know that this conversation is happening because you are concerned about their health and safety. It’s okay to be honest about your past experiences, but it’s also important to let them know you do not endorse their drug use. Talk to them about the increased dangers of drug use (and laced drugs) in modern day.
Your teen may also give you some push-back during the conversation. They may be experiencing panic, embarrassment, or denial. You may hear, “Those drugs aren’t mine,” or “I only did it once,” or “Everyone is doing it, it’s not a big deal.” As much as you may want to believe them, stay true to your case and the evidence you have, and continue the conversation.
- Set goals for the conversation.
What do you hope to get out of the conversation? If you have a partner, you should together set goals and expectations before diving into the conversation head-on. It’s okay to keep expectations low, knowing the first conversation with your teen will be the most difficult. For example, instead of setting the expectation that they will stop using completely, start small: Set a goal of getting your concerns across. Set a goal of getting them to throw the drugs out (if you haven’t already). Set a goal of having them research the dangers of drug use. You’ll likely have multiple conversations about drug use, so it’s okay to take these one step at a time.
- Establish clear rules and consequences.
In addition to setting goals, you will want to set some family rules around drugs and substance use. Think about these in advance of confronting your child, and again make sure you and your partner are on the same page. For example, you might set a consequence for finding drugs in your child’s room. You might set rules and consequences for coming home after curfew, or coming home intoxicated. Do not set consequences that you cannot (or are unlikely to) enforce. Be realistic. Additionally, be open to your child’s feedback. Your child is more likely to follow rules that they have helped create, according to The Partnership to End Addiction website.
- Assess for signs of substance addiction.
Anyone can become addicted to drugs and alcohol, even teenagers and young adults. If you have a family history of addiction, the potential for your child to become addicted might be even greater. However, other factors can put your teen at risk for developing a substance use disorder—such as their environment, friend groups, mental health, and more. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs of a substance addiction. If any of these signs are noticed, you can then seek help for your child. Signs of addiction in teenagers can be seen here.
What to Say to Your Child About Their Drug Use
Now that you know the preliminary steps to having a conversation with your teen, you may be thinking, “OK, but what exactly do I say?” You may be feeling a lot of emotions at this time, and are concerned those will come out in the dialogue. Here are some tips to help you have a more productive conversation with your child about drugs:
- Start the conversation on a positive note. Tell your child how much you love them, and let them know you are there to support them whenever they need it—no matter what.
- Bring up your concerns. In a calm manner, you can then let your child know what you found in their room. You should also let them know why this is concerning to you. Not only are drugs illegal for teens, but they are also extremely dangerous and harmful to a person’s health. Again, let your child know that you care about their well-being.
- Ask questions. Try to gather as much information as possible from this conversation, so you can really assess your teen’s level and severity of drug use. Questions might include:
- When did you start using drugs?
- Where did you get the drugs?
- Have you used more drugs than the ones I found?
- How often do you use drugs? In what situations?
- How much do you use?
- Why are you using drugs?
- How do you feel when use drugs?
- Teach your teen. While this conversation is not meant to be a lecture, it is important for your child to know about the dangers of drug use—especially at their age. You may talk about some of the risks of teen drug use, or encourage your teen to do their own research on drug abuse so that they fully understand the dangers at play.
- Make your rules clear and set boundaries. Let your child know that you do not endorse drug use, and you do not allow drugs under your roof. Explain what the consequences will be for breaking those rules. Be specific about what those consequences are, do not leave them open-ended.
- Reinforce your love and support for your child. The reason you are setting rules and consequences is to keep your child safe. Let them know that you want them to be healthy and successful, and you are scared about their drug use. Tell them how much you love them, and that you are there for them no matter what. You do not agree with their drug use, but you will always be there for them whenever they need. They should never be afraid to have an open and honest conversation with you.
When to Seek Professional Help for a Child that is Using Drugs
It is never too early to seek help for your child if they are using drugs, but it can be too late. To prevent long-term health implications, or to reduce the risks of drug dependency in your child, it is important to intervene as early as possible. Have conversations right away. If you notice any signs of substance addiction in your teenager, be ready to call your doctor or a treatment specialist.
If you would like to speak with an addiction specialist about your concerns, you may always reach out to Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a recognized substance abuse treatment center for teenagers and young adults battling drug problems. We are here for you. Call 877-581-1793 to learn more.