<iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-TSVVVQB" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden"></iframe>

How Can I Prevent My Teen from Misusing Substances?

You can help set your child up for success. Use this page as a roadmap for establishing a safe and supportive environment.

How Can I Prevent My Teen from Misusing Substances?

You can help set your child up for success. Use this page as a roadmap for establishing a safe and supportive environment.

How to Teen-Proof Your Substance Storage


Store Out of Sight

If you store alcohol, cannabis or prescription medications in the house, keep them out of sight. A place that your teen doesn’t have easy access to is best. Even if your teen is the one taking a prescription medication, help them manage it by giving them their exact dosage at the right time.

Use Locks

For prescriptions or cannabis, it can be as simple as buying an inexpensive lockbox. If you already have a lockable cabinet for liquor, consider storing cannabis there as well. Keep track of what’s in the house. If any goes missing, it might be time for a conversation.

Check Your Own Use

Teens who see their parents use are more likely to experiment. If you do drink alcohol or use cannabis in front of them, make sure you’re also having open conversations about the risks of underage use.

Set an Example


Teach by Doing

Even when it seems like they’re ignoring you, teens still use their parents as models for their behavior. If you expect them to behave in certain ways, you should hold yourself to the same standard. They learn how to be adults from you.

80% of teens think their parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol.30

Most teens who misuse prescription opioids get them from a friend or family member,31 often by taking them without asking.

Children whose parents tell them about the risks of drug misuse are significantly less likely to use drugs.32

Teens are most likely to be influenced by parents who offer a healthy balance of discipline and support.33

Give respect, get respect

Your teen learns qualities like working hard, maintaining a good attitude and respecting others from you. They learn from you at your best, but also at your worst, so avoid shouting, angry words or lecturing. Know when to apologize, and when you do need to apologize, keep it honest and sincere.

Talk About Substance Use


Why Talk?

Because talking with your children about substances helps keep them safe. Open and honest conversations with your child about the risks of alcohol, cannabis and other drugs makes them less likely to experiment. It may feel awkward, but your kids are actually waiting to hear from you.

Tips for Keeping the Conversation Going

Nothing makes teens shut down faster than an angry, judgmental or lecturing parent. For a productive conversation now, and an open door for future conversations, do your best to keep it natural and positive.

Start calm, stay calm

Get yourself centered before approaching your child. If you’re upset, try doing some yoga, going for a walk or just taking a few deep breaths before engaging with them.

Be Casual

Instead of having “the talk,” look for opportunities to work your concerns into everyday conversations. Find settings that offer privacy but don’t feel too constricting or distracting, like talking while walking the dog or going for a drive.

Stay Positive

Look for ways to praise what your teen is doing right. Express concern—rather than judgment—where needed. For example, instead of saying you’re “disappointed,” let them know you’re “worried.” Praise the good in them, playing to their sense of self-respect.

Actively listen

Ask questions that encourage your child to elaborate and show you’re hearing by repeating back what they said. Don’t cut the conversation short—make sure they’ve expressed everything they need to.

Keep it Fact-Based

Instead of horror stories, stick to discussing real-life consequences and the good reasons to avoid drugs and alcohol. Try brainstorming ideas for situations with them, like turning down drugs, or how to contact you in a risky situation.

Keep it Ongoing

It’s good to have a goal going into a talk with your teen. But if you don’t get there on the first—or second or third—try, don’t sweat it. Getting through to your teen can take time, and it’s often better to come back to it later than to force a confrontation.

Talk early, talk often

Start early, before they’re hearing about substances from peers. Keep an open dialogue about drugs, alcohol, media influences, emotions, and other issues. Explain your rules and expectations. Return to these conversations often as your child grows.

Make Together Time

Consistently showing interest in your child’s daily life helps you build trust and openness. That way you don’t suddenly surprise them with “the talk” about drugs.34 Check in with your teen every day, then set aside family time once a week for longer conversations.35

Grow the Conversation

As your teen ages, it becomes more important to offer detailed and proven facts about drugs, alcohol and other issues. If your teen is looking forward to college or a career, talk about how drugs and alcohol could get in the way of achieving their goals.

Learn How Cannabis Can Affect Your Teen


Know the facts and share them with your child

It can be hard, but it’s important to talk with your teen about the risks of cannabis. Having the right information is a good starting point for opening up the conversation. Check out the document below to learn how weed can impact teen mental health.

Create a Healthy Environment


Show support

Strong family connections that provide high levels of love and assistance help keep your children safe. If you have more than one child, find ways to spend time with each of them individually. Create quality time together by setting up family traditions like game nights, outings and meetings.

Stay Flexible

The next time your child lashes out at you, try responding with love rather than anger, such as, “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way right now. I love you, but it’s not okay to act this way.” Learn to be flexible when setting boundaries and to take the long view. Behavior trends will always come and go.

Practice Resilience

Your resilience is your capacity to thrive in the face of adversity. You can build resilience by tapping into your strengths as a parent. Build on that strength by using the resources available to you here in Vermont. That can help you give your child and your family the support they need.

Parents Are in This Together


Be Real About Your Concerns

Don’t worry—you are not the only parent in Vermont who has concerns about underage drinking, drug use and other issues that teens face today. Find out the rules and expectations of your teen’s friends’ parents, and share yours with them.

How to Connect with Other Parents

There are lots of ways to connect with other parents. Ask your children to introduce you to the parents of their friends. Or, when dropping your child off at a friend’s home, introduce yourself. Find out what you have in common, and make a point to touch base from time to time.

Bringing Up Issues

Don’t be afraid to bring up the important things. Let them know in conversation that underage drinking or drug use is a problem you worry about. One way to start the conversation is to mention an article, TV show or commercial that talks about underage drinking or drug use and ask their opinion.36

Work Together

Ask other parents if they mind if you check in with them periodically about your kids. Sharing information, like whether you’re worried about or suspect drinking or substance misuse, helps all of you spot warning signs.