“Parenting is prevention.”

– Frances Harding, Director,
  SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention

Positive parenting prevents drug abuse. Research shows that parents play an important role in preventing teens from engaging in substance use. These six parenting skills can help you prevent or reduce your teenager’s use of drugs and alcohol.

1. Clear, Calm Communication

Developing good communication skills helps parents catch problems early, support positive behavior, and stay aware of what is happening in their children’s lives. Communicating about problems is important and can be difficult. Key communication skills include:

  • Questioning
  • Listening and observing
  • Reducing emotion

2. Regular Encouragement

Consistent encouragement helps youth feel good about themselves and gives them confidence to: try new activities, develop new friendships, explore their creativity, and tackle difficult tasks. It also helps parents promote cooperation and reduce conflict. Ways of encouraging your children include:

  • Helping them break a problem down into smaller parts
  • Reminding them of their strengths and past successes
  • Asking them to share their opinions, ideas, and feelings
  • Remembering what they have told you
  • Making time for them each day

3. Negotiating Problems and Finding Solutions

Negotiating solutions is a way for parents and teens to work together to solve problems, make changes, and improve cooperation. Going through the process can teach teens skills that will be valuable in their adult lives. To negotiate solutions, start in an unemotional place and time. Then:

  • Choose a problem that is small and specific
  • State the problem neutrally
  • Brainstorm solutions with your teen
  • Evaluate ideas and choose a solution cooperatively
  • Check in after you have tried the solution several times. If it’s not working, go back to your list of ideas.

4. Setting Limits

Setting limits helps parents teach self-control and responsibility, show caring, and provide safe boundaries. This is a two-step process:

Step 1: Setting Rules

  • Make clear, simple, specific rules
  • Make sure your children understands your rules
  • Have a list of consequences
  • Be ready to follow through

Step 2: Following Through

Research shows that parents are most effective in setting limits when they follow through right away. Youth are more likely to follow rules if they know you are checking up on them and will enforce the consequences consistently.

  • Give a consequence when rules are broken
  • Offer encouragement when rules are followed

5. Supervision

When teens begin to spend more and more time away from home, monitoring their behavior is challenging. Supervision helps parents recognize developing problems, promote safety, and stay involved. Elements of good supervision include:

  • Have a few non-negotiable rules like “No friends at the house when I am not at home”
  • Communicate regularly with other parents and teachers
  • Check up on your children by calling them at varying times, having them call you when they reach a destination, or surprising your them with a random visit

6. Knowing Their Friends

It’s not uncommon for youth to feel overwhelmed by a need to please and impress their friends. These feelings can leave teens open to peer pressure. Reduce your children’s vulnerability to negative peer pressure by:

  • Knowing their friends in the neighborhood and at school
  • Staying involved in their activities
  • Talking to them when a concern about friends comes up
  • Helping them see what qualities they should value in friends—such as honesty, school involvement, and respect