How to Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol, Drugs and Sex

Parenting teenagers is not an easy task. As a mother or father, at times, you will find yourself at a loss of words in an attempt to explain something complicated or difficult to your teenagers, even when they are old enough to comprehend most topics. Your teenagers will go through different phases, they’ll mix into different crowds (some of which you like, and others that you don’t), and face a whole bunch of highs and lows.

We at Parentz Talk have fathered some practical advice and tips that will help you, as a parent, understand your child better, and help them to develop a better, safer, more confident sense of self. Your child’s teenage years are crucial through a developmental lense, and we find importance in helping you through having these incredibly critical conversations.  

How to Talk to Your Teen About Alcohol, Drugs and Sex

The first thing to understand before going into the details of how to address these conversations is that you do not have to sugar- coat what you are trying to say to your teenager. You should keep things age appropriate and be realistic. Your teenager will respect you and the topic more if you tell them the truth, and speak to them in a way that does not make them feel uncomfortable. We know that these kinds of conversations can be awkward and weird to have for you both, but we also know that they are the template for a close and intimate relationship that will continue to grow and foster throughout life. If these conversations are presented well, they can be a method of a closer and more meaningful relationship with your child.

It is impossible to be completely prepared for these conversations. However, there a few things to know and think about before bombarding your teenager with information. It is always a good idea to go into a serious conversation with an idea of what you want to say, what you want to talk about and what you want to achieve. This will also help ensure that you won’t miss any important points.

1. One of the more serious, yet important conversations you will have with your teenager revolves around the topic of drugs and alcohol. Be realistic in this conversation. Chances are, your teenager will come across drugs in alcohol in high school or in college, by accident or out of curiosity. Be honest with your teenager by explaining that drugs and alcohol can be dangerous, and set the bar high. We recommend that you start the conversation with the dangers because it will wake your teenager up and will make them realize how serious drugs and alcohol can be. Note that drugs and alcohol can affect the developing brain of your teenager and that there is a scientific reason for the drinking age.

Also let them know that making mistakes is a part of life, and especially of the teenage years. You can let them know that you will always be there for them, even when they make mistakes, while still being clear on your expectations related to drinking and drugs. It is important for you to note that teenagers are highly more susceptible to substance abuse if they are disconnected and feel misunderstood by their parents.

Let your teenager know that their friends will probably experiment with drugs and alcohol and that this is normal, but that they should not do something just to follow their friends. If they don’t want to try anything, they do not have to and should not feel pressured to in any way. Remind them that if their friends are trying to pressure them into doing something, they are probably not the best friends.

2. Another tough conversation to have with your teenager is talking about sex. If you are feeling queasy and awkward about talking to your child about sex, just imagine how they are feeling. While we know how uncomfortable initiating this conversation might be, remember that sex is a natural part of human life and the conversation will be far less awkward if you aren’t weird about it. Teenagers can be at ease with talking about sex, but they will close off if you approach them in the wrong way.

Talking about sex is easier when you start educating them about it from a young age. Overall, sex is a big part of understanding their personal health, self-care, and knowing their body. Providing your teenager with accurate information about sex will lead them to have higher sexual health and self-esteem. Young teenagers love learning, so it really is best to start the conversation early. Educating children about sex is incredibly important because it leads them to be safer when they actually start having sex.

This can be an ongoing conversation, and it is probably better that way. Answer questions and remind them that they can always come to you if they want to talk about sex. Teenagers are curious and might want to know more about the emotional and societal issues of sex. They also might be curious about sexuality as a whole. Be open to talking to them, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable at times.

We believe that one of the most important conversations to have under the topic of sex is consent. Consent is when someone agrees or gives permission to sexual activity with another person. Everyone in the sexual situation should feel that they are able to either give consent or stop the situation at any point.

It is important to tell your teenager that consent should never be assumed. Each individual is, and should be responsible for making sure there is consent on both sides for each and every sexual situation. If you are not sure, ask your partner what they are O.K. with. Make sure you and your partner are both comfortable, and on the same page before initiating or continuing the activity. This goes for both boys and girls.

Consent should never be assumed by:

  • Body language or appearance. Never assume that the way someone dresses or acts is them agreeing to have se with you.
  • Previous sexual activity or current relationship. Just because you have been with someone or are dating someone, it does not indicate that they are consenting to have sex with you again.
  • Alcohol incapacitation is not consent. It is important to note and to always remember that sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, even if they were intoxicated.