Michigan Association of Health Plans

How to talk to your kids about substance use

This story appeared in Priority Health’s ThinkHealth Blog. Read more here.

Recent studies show that youth in the State of Michigan are 6.95% more likely to have used drugs in the last month compared to their peers in other parts of the country. Additionally, 9.17% of all 12- to 17-year-olds in Michigan report using alcohol in the last month. These numbers are concerning and bring to light the critical need for parents and caregivers to engage in open and honest conversations about this complex issue.

Does the idea of engaging in these conversations sound daunting? The good news is that our youth truly do seek information and guidance from the adults in their lives.

Research shows that early and frequent conversations between adults and youth can have a positive impact in delaying possible substance use. Initiating dialogue about substance use shows youth that their adult support(s) are willing to talk about sensitive topics and open to seeking help if further support is needed. While these conversations might seem difficult, they are extremely important.

TalkSooner.org offers free guidance, tips and drug trend information, including signs to watch for if there are concerns your child may be using substances. The drug trend information on the website is regularly updated and provides parents and caregivers with information about the latest substances their youth may encounter. The site empowers parents and caregivers to have conversations at any stage/age of a child’s development – anytime, and anywhere. The website is also available in Spanish and includes a page where parents and caregivers can find additional resources if further support is needed. Again, it’s never too early to start the conversation. Check out these helpful talking tips for all ages and stages of parenting:

  • Early Childhood: Consider what behaviors you are modeling for your children, talk often healthy choices, and set aside time ample together.
  • Pre-Tween: Continue conversations about making healthy choices, find teachable moments, and talk openly using easy to understand language about the consequences of substance use.
  • Tween: Engage and build trust by asking open-ended questions about your tweens’ experiences while really listening to their answers. Discuss your rules and expectations and be willing to talk about why these rules are important to you.
  • Teen: Continue to engage your teen by discussing things happening in the news media and world around them. Ask them how they would respond, talking about how they would handle a potentially dangerous situation, and remind them that you are always a resource.
  • Young Adult & Former Users: Engage in a two-way conversation. Share your own experiences. Offer help.
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