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Parenting, like any relationship, can be challenging. Conflicts can happen between parents and teens; it’s normal and expected. No one is perfect. Rather than feeling guilty about past mistakes, begin from where you are now - start rebuilding a respectful, honest, and open relationship. Restoring the relationship after a conflict helps build a stronger relationship going forward, helping your teen handle peer pressure and make healthy choices when it comes to substance use. There are no magic formulas, but these tips can help.
Model Healthy Behaviour
Why it matters: Attitudes and actions can be taught. Children learn by observing the behaviour of others and imitating those around them. Modelling responsible use of medications, including opioids and other substances such as alcohol and cannabis, is an important way to influence your teen’s own use now and in the future. Taking opioids in risky ways (e.g., too often, taking more than prescribed) or giving them to someone without a prescription can send the message that it’s okay to treat these drugs casually. Your child will be more likely to engage in such behaviours and adopt similar unhealthy patterns as they face choices about substance use.
Restoring the relationship: Practice healthy self-reflection in order to explore the discrepancies between what you say you want for your family versus what you’re actually doing. (e.g. talk with your teen honestly about your thought processes and the steps you took to make a decision about substance use). This is a critical step in beginning to change your own behaviour. The aim is to identify possible reasons to change. When you know and are convinced of the reasons to change, you can usually find a way.
Nurture Open Communication
Why it matters: Open communication in which children feel accepted and valued is imperative. The goal is a two-way exchange where your children can share their thoughts and feelings, and come to understand yours. Lecturing or ridiculing ideas you don’t like can make your children reluctant to share their thoughts and feelings with you.
Restoring the relationship: Apologize when you catch yourself lecturing or making a critical comment. Saying you slipped up shows that you respect your child and helps make your relationship more collaborative. An apology might go something like this: “I’m sorry I jumped on you. That wasn’t fair.” Then, give them the chance to express how they feel.
Encourage Active Collaboration
Why it matters: Nurturing active collaboration means you work with your child to help them develop the ability to think through issues and find solutions on their own. Children need support as they struggle with issues such as drug use. By imposing your solutions or perspective, you may undermine the self-confidence and resilience that they gain by working out their own positions.
Restoring the relationship: Try to share what you know in a conversational style without coming across as judgemental or as the expert in resolving issues. This helps build two-way communication and nurtures their sense of self-worth. By carefully listening to what your child is saying and working with their strengths, you can find ways to help them find their own solutions. By taking this approach, you’re helping them address challenges in the future and grow their capacity to make good decisions, especially when there is peer pressure.
For More Information
For more information about how to talk to your teens about substance use and overdose, see the following parenting articles:
- Using Conversations to Teach Resilience: Teens
- How to Start a Conversation with Teens about Opioids
- Practicing Good Listening Skills with Teens
- Setting a Healthy Example for Your Teens
Last Reviewed: December 2016