This page has information on:
- Talking to teens and resources for having conversations.
- Tips for parents and caregivers.
- The risks of underage use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.
- Developing healthy habits together.
- Where to get support.
You are the most powerful influence in the decisions your teen makes about drugs.
More than friends. More than celebrities. That's why it's important for teens to hear from you about not using marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs, and for them to learn to make healthy choices, including finding healthy ways to cope during difficult times.
Talking with your teen about these topics can be challenging, but research shows it's one of the most important things you can do to show you care, set expectations, and help keep them safe and healthy. Conversations can be casual, short talks that you have while you spend time with your teen. Here is a list of answers for questions your child might ask about alcohol and marijuana, to help you prepare for these conversations. Not everyone is the same, so remember to tailor your responses based on your own views and experience. Having a personable and sincere conversation will have an even more powerful impact.
Here are additional resources to help you talk with your teens:
- Tips on how to have effective conversations
- Factsheet about teens and marijuana
- An infographic with quick tips for parents
- A parent’s guide to raising drug-free kids
- Guides to start the conversation by child’s age group
- A game of Truth or Challenge to engage in a fun way
- Videos with recommendations from experts on building a support system, modeling behaviors, and having conversations with older teens/young adults.
Tips for parents and caregivers.
Spend time with your teen, have frequent conversations, and do fun things together! You can help your teen avoid marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs when you bond, set boundaries, and monitor.
Teens are less likely to drink or use marijuana or other drugs when their parents and/or caregivers are involved in their lives and when they feel close to them. To increase family bonding:
- Give your child at least 15 minutes of one-on-one time every day.
- Do fun things together.
- Give positive feedback about the healthy choices your child makes.
- Eat together.
Set clear rules early, be consistent, and talk about the guidelines often. To set boundaries:
- Have regular conversation about your expectations.
- Use fair and consistent discipline any time your rules are broken.
- Help your kids have positive relationships with friends.
- Help your child practice ways to say no to drugs.
Always know what your teens are doing, where they are going, and who they are spending time with. Help them plan safe and fun activities. Remember to ask these five questions:
- Where are you going?
- What will you be doing?
- Who will be with you?
- When will you be home?
- Will there be alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs?
There are websites created for teens with information about the risks and consequences of marijuana/cannabis and alcohol, along with ideas for healthy ways to cope. Encourage your teen to visit these resources to learn more or explore them together.
What are the risks of underage use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs?
Early use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs puts teens at greater risk for addiction and other health problems, failing in school, and career choices limited by arrests and lack of education. Marijuana, alcohol, and other drug use:
- Can cause harm to the developing teen brain. Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can impair the areas of the brain that control motor coordination, impulse control, memory, learning and judgment. Because the teen brain is still developing, it is more vulnerable to the effects.
- Can lead to addiction. Kids who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol problems as adults and those who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than those who delay use.
- Is associated with the top three causes of teen deaths: Accidents (including traffic fatalities and drowning), homicide, and suicide.
Get the facts about the risks of underage substance use.
Develop healthy habits together.
Help your teen develop healthy habits, set goals, and practice healthy ways to cope.
- Set goals: Setting goals gives people a sense of purpose and helps them believe in a positive future. The present may be challenging, but it’s easier to handle when there is optimism about future opportunities. Talk to your teen about what they want to do in the future and help them make plans.
- Build healthy habits: Eating well and getting enough sleep and exercise boost health and mood. Provide structure (such as regular mealtimes), which facilitates good habits, and talk to your teen about why healthy habits are so important. Together, strategize ways to strengthen and practice good habits.
- Develop coping skills: It’s important for teens to identify activities that help them feel better when they are feeling stressed or anxious. With your teen, find ways to incorporate those activities into their life — whether it’s or throwing a ball in the backyard after dinner, going for a walk around the neighborhood, a daily arts break, or simply counting to 10 and breathing deeply when things feel out of control.
It is okay to ask for help for your teen and for you! All the resources below offer TRS 711 and language access services.
- Teen Link is a free, confidential helpline that teens can access by calling, texting or chatting with trained teens from 6 to 10 p.m. PT. Your child can talk to them about whatever is on their mind. Encourage your child to call, text, or chat 1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546). Adults may also call Teen Link to speak with a clinician specializing in substance use prevention. Visit www.teenlink.org for more information.
- Washington Recovery Help Line is an anonymous, confidential 24-hour help line that offers support for those struggling with substance use disorders and mental health challenges. Call 1-866-789-1511 or visit WARecoveryHelpLine.org to get more information.
- Washington Listens provides support to those who feel sad, anxious, or stressed. It is staffed Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT and on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Visit the Washington Listens portal for more information.