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How can parents talk to their kids about abusing drugs and alcohol?

Many parents fear their children getting involved with drugs and alcohol. They struggle with how to be sure their kids are safe from those substances and also worry about how to talk with them about the issue.

“You know your child and you know when things are changing, and instead of being in denial of it, really observe,” said Christina Jimenez, a licensed family therapist with Doorways in Phoenix.

There are three things parents should look for.

“You always want to look for the physical symptoms,” Jimenez said. “Are they agitated, are they slurring their words, are they having a hard time keeping eye contact with you, are they sleeping a lot, a large change in appetite?”

And cognitively, are their thinking patterns different? Are they more emotional with very high ups or high downs?

“And then also just activities,” she said. “You know, hiding things from you, trying to stay away from you … hanging out with new friend groups.”

As a parent, you’re going to notice changes, she said.

If you think something’s weird, how do you bring it up?

“You confront it directly,” Jimenez said. “Unfortunately, someone who is struggling with an addiction, if it’s gone to that level or even a dependency, is going to present with denial or minimizing the behavior or even will maybe tell you you’re crazy.”

But every time, parents need to present their evidence and confront the child, she said.

“Confront it in a way that’s, ‘We will help you with this,’” she said. “Because as parents, you’re the only person(s), in their life that will do anything to make sure they get through something they’re struggling with.”

If someone is struggling with an addiction, it may take more than one attempt. Parents may have to do this over, and over, and over again.

“But I always tell the parents I work with to tell their child: ‘I will support you in recovery, I will not support you in the addiction,’ ” she said. “And supporting your recovery, a part of it is fighting the addiction.”

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