Should you tell your children about your own use of drugs or alcohol?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests ways for parents to talk to their teens about their own behaviors.  It emphasizes that neither glamorizing your use nor trying to hide it is very helpful.  Most importantly, it says to listen to what your child is asking and then give honest answers.  The most common mistake is letting your past mistakes prevent you from talking with your teen at all.

Parents should neither glorify their behaviors nor overstate the risks.  They suggest:

DO

·   Keep conversations calm, upbeat and casual.

·   Ask open-ended questions about your teen’s concerns.

·   Encourage your teen to ask questions.

·   Share useful facts about legal and health risks.
 

DON’T

·   Lie about or try to hide past misdeeds.

·   Glorify your past adventures in colorful detail.

·   Yell at or lecture a teen who is drunk or high.

·   Burden your child with details s/he doesn’t want to hear.

We created Gobi to get parents and teens talking in a different way.  One of the activities families do in Gobi is to take walks with each other. We have found that walks imply forward progress and remove the obstacle of body language.  The walks are structured around topics that our teens have suggested, and we have found that they are very helpful in restarting the dialogue.  This is important because research has shown that a warm and supportive relationship between parents and their children is linked with lower drug and alcohol use by teens.