Why Modeling Good Behavior for Your Teen is Crucial in Prevention

Mother and daughter talking outsideModeling good behavior is crucial in preventing teen drug and alcohol use. In this excerpt from The Marijuana Talk Kit (available for free at drugfree.org/MJTalkKit), Heather Senior, LCSW, Parent Support Network Manager at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, provides some tips for parents who smoke or drink themselves.

If you use marijuana or drink alcohol ‒ whether in front of your teen or not ‒ you should anticipate that he is going to call you out on this (“But you smoke weed/drink alcohol!”).

Take the time to reflect on, and perhaps reevaluate, your own use ‒ especially if your teen is seeing you drink or smoke. You may want to consider the effect your behavior has on him or her.  For instance, if you come home from a long, stressful day and the first thing you do is smoke a joint or pour yourself a drink, you may want to try modeling another behavior for your child.

For example: Going for a walk, working out, reading, stretching, deep breathing or something else that helps you unwind.

Showing your teen that you need a substance to relieve stress, or use as a coping skill, can send the wrong message.

Ask yourself why you drink and/or smoke, how often, what time of day, and how much you use. These answers are going to affect your credibility with your teen, give you some insight into your own behavior, and allow you to evaluate whether your substance use is in any way becoming a harmful and unhealthy coping mechanism.

These are questions only you can answer. Think about them in an honest manner, and reach out for help if you need it. (Consider calling the Partnership’s Parents Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE to talk to a trained parent specialist who can walk you through next steps.)

If you don’t feel comfortable talking about your substance use with your teen, you can put the focus back on him. You can say, “I’m glad you brought this topic up. I think it’s important that we talk about my use as well as yours and I would like it if we started with your use. Why do you feel the need to drink or smoke?”

Try asking your teen, “How does my use affect you? I’m curious, because who you are and how you are feeling is important to me.” This invites him to share and ask questions and promotes collaboration.

Consider also asking your teen, “How does knowing that I use pot or drink alcohol make you think differently about your own decisions?” Open-ended questions like these show curiosity, respect and understanding.

And lastly, be sure to express your love and caring about your child’s health, development and well-being.

Marijuana Talk Kit

Learn more tips on how to talk with your teen about marijuana. Learn what you should and shouldn’t say when talking with your teen, why pot is still risky for teens, and how to respond to their questions.

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    Ruth E

    May 29, 2015 at 9:29 AM

    I would think another important point to mention is that the impact of drugs on the teen brain is really different than on an adult one. A teen brain is much more vulnerable to the drugs, and that is a key reason I wouldn’t want my teen using regardless of my behavior and as a parent and educator, that is a point I am constantly coming back to.

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