Addressing Substance Use: Set Limits & Monitor Behavior

Rules provide a concrete way to let your child understand what’s expected of him or her and to learn self-control. Don’t just assume they “know” you don’t want them to drink or do drugs. Teens and young adults don’t deal well with gray areas, so when they’re offered alcohol or drugs, you don’t want any confusion in their minds.

Establish Rules & Consequences

Rules are a signal to your child that you care about them and his or her safety. And consequences are way of helping — not hurting — them. A firm consequence, such as getting grounded or having to give up a fun privilege, is a reminder of what not to do in the future.

When you lay out rules and consequences, be very clear – make sure your child understands the limits you’ve set before there’s opportunity to do something wrong. One great way to do this is to actually write out your expectations for one another (being home before curfew, getting a ride home from a party if things get out of hand), and to jointly sign off on them.


Monitoring your child’s behavior is about keeping a closer eye and communicating regularly about their whereabouts, friends and more.

Keep Track & Take Notes

When drug use is suspected, and even once it’s confirmed, it’s useful to keep records of everything that concerns you over time – the date, time, where it occurred, what was found, and changes over time. Your child may try to convince you that things didn’t happen the way you remember, or that the things you found are not what you think they are. In the event it becomes necessary to seek outside help, your notes will provide invaluable information.