Talking to your High School Teen

It may surprise you what your teen will learn and know about substance use— some of it true, some of it not. It’s especially crucial that you help your teen make good decisions. That means equipping them with accurate information about substance use, your consequences should they use substances, and lavish praise for making healthy decisions.

Below, we’ll go into a few ways to talk and strike a substance use conversation with your teenager.

Talk about the future

  • GraduationIs your teen looking forward to college or starting a career soon?
    Talk to them about how substances could throw a wrench in their plans. DUI’s can lead to an academic institution rescinding its financial aid. And a positive drug test can lead to termination.

Tell them that they’re normal

  • Not every Vermont teenager drinks or uses other substances. Remind them that they’re still in the majority for choosing not to use.

Stay in touch

  • Ask your teen’s permission to friend them on social media sites.
  • Don’t be afraid to text with your kids, whether about specific things or just to let them know that you’re thinking of them.
  • Take an active interest in your teen’s day; ask about ups and downs during the day, refer to friends by name, ask them for their opinions on matters.


Explicit consequences

  • Reiterate that you disapprove of all alcohol, nicotine, and substance use. Look for opportunities to talk about your feelings and theirs in a productive way. But don’t just lecture, take some time to listen.
  • Your teen needs to know that if they disregard your rules that you will really enforce the consequences that you’ve laid out for them. Consequences themselves should fit the action, and be short-lived.

Connect with their friends

  • Invite your teen’s friends over and get to know them.
  • Offer to drive your teen and their friends to and from activities. This will give you an opportunity to ask some low-risk and light questions about school and upcoming plans.

If your teen is already using…

Talk to them about quitting

  • Stay calm. Talk to them like you would another adult: be more serious than furious. Explain to them while you’re upset and the risk that your teen is putting themself in.
  • Talk with your teen about the harms of substance use. Seek out resources with your teen’s primary care provider.
  • Provide positive encouragement through the quitting process. Your teen is going to need a lot of support right now.

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Vermont Dept. of Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration