How to Approach Your Teen’s Addiction: Confrontation vs. Conversation

There’s a right way and a wrong way to confront your teen about their drug and alcohol abuse. If your child is suffering from substance addiction, find a professional to help to walk you through this process.

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4 min read

Properly Educating Your Children

smoking and taking pillsYou set the tone for your child’s perception of drug use during your first conversation. Ideally, it’s a discussion you should have while they’re in elementary school. Considering the rising presence of drug use in middle school, kids need to learn of the dangers of substance use early. And they need to hear about it from you.

But there’s a big difference between scaring your kids and educating them. By nature, young people don’t like being told what not to do — nobody does, for that matter. The actual facts should be enough, and you should trust they’ll be smart enough to take that information to heart.

When sitting down your kids, ask them what they already know about alcohol and illicit drugs. Ask if they know anyone who uses, or have ever been offered something. Make sure they feel comfortable with asking you any questions along the way. Don’t make it a lecture. Make this a conversation. Sprinkle any relevant wisdom throughout the conversation:

  • Talk about what drugs are out there
  • Discuss the dangers of substance use
  • Help identify risky situations
  • Explain how to deal with peer pressure

If you feel comfortable with it, you can also talk about your personal experiences with substance use, and any of the lessons you learned. By reminding your children that you’ve been in their shoes before, it can help bring the conversation down to earth and make it more relatable.

How to Tell if They’re Using

How to tell if your child is using drugsDown the line, you may notice signs your teen is using drugs. It’s a reality that no parent wants to face. But when the signs of substance use become apparent, it needs to be addressed — thoughtfully, tactfully and compassionately.

It’s easy to take this development personally, jump to conclusions and allow your emotions to take the wheel. But a confrontation won’t benefit anybody. It could actually make matters worse, turning a healthy dialogue into a potential shouting match.

The first step is to try to understand your teen and what they’re dealing with, and then approach it with a level head. Adolescent substance abuse is a delicate matter, and you’re both in a fragile state. The only way to get through this is to work together, and not make them feel like they’re being attacked. Find a good time for both of you, sit them down, and have a conversation — about what they’ve been doing, how it affects you, and what might happen if they don’t stop.

Dos and Don’ts

A stern conversation about illegal drugsAt any point in your conversation, it’s easy to let it slide into dangerous territory. Your child looks up to you, and this is an excellent opportunity to show how you care and exceed their expectations. Here are a few basic pointers for how to handle this critical conversation.


  • Research the problem beforehand
  • Speak with loved ones for emotional support
  • Choose an appropriate time and place for the meeting
  • Ask them straightforward questions
  • Listen carefully to them when they speak
  • Explain the changes you’ve seen in them
  • Discuss the risks of their substance habit
  • Show them how much you care
  • Offer your complete support in helping them quit
  • Ask what you can do to be a better parent
  • Go over possible options for treatment or rehab
  • Have somebody on-hand to call if something goes wrong


  • Have the conversation in a public place
  • Bring up the conversation when they’re under the influence
  • Assume you know what they’ve been doing
  • Raise your voice
  • Monopolize the conversation
  • Make them feel guilty or ashamed
  • Threaten them with punishments
  • Invite numerous people into your conversation
  • Become physical or violent
  • End the conversation prematurely
  • Belabor the point after it’s been made
  • Run after them if they decide to leave

It’s not always a quick fix — in fact, you’ll be lucky if that’s the case. But a heartfelt conversation is the best place to start. While you shouldn’t threaten them, you may choose to monitor them more closely following the conversation, or take away certain privileges until they decide to get better. As with the conversation itself, there’s a fine line between asserting yourself and making them feel attacked.

If you need help in planning your conversation, or advice on how to best follow it up, reach out to a professional. We at can help guide you through this conversation. Best of all, our help is free and private.

Does My Child Need Addiction Rehab?

A mother holding her daughter through a drug interventionSometimes a one-on-one conversation with your teenager doesn’t do the trick. If you’ve previously talked to your child about their substance abuse but they can’t stop, their habit has become an addiction. Painful as it may be to hear, your family must seek drug rehab treatment at this point.

For many teens struggling with addiction, intervention is the first step towards recovery. To organize an intervention, assemble a group of close friends and family, and sit your child down with them. Everyone should come prepared to lovingly tell your teen how they’ve personally been impacted by your child’s addiction. Because this situation can get sticky, you may wish to enlist the help of an intervention specialist.

If you need help talking to your child about substance abuse or even organizing an intervention, just get in touch with us at Calling is free, and our conversations are kept strictly confidential. Don’t wait another day to get your child they help they need.

It’s Time To Get Your Child Back.

Call us today to have one of our recovery specialists help you take that next step.

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