▢ 1. Have a conversation with the young person(s) in your life.
No matter what age, it is never too soon to discuss why it is important for young people to make healthy decisions and delay substance use (see our Tips for Every Age section of this website). For additional communication tips and conversation starter ideas, see the “I Am a Parent/Caring Adult” section of this website.
▢ 2. Use “natural” opportunities to start open, honest discussions on the subject of substance use.
This might include chatting over dinner, during a car ride, or while taking a walk. Sometimes conversations are easier being side-by-side rather than face-to-face. Try to anticipate some of the tough questions that the young person in your life might have, and think ahead about ways to answer those questions.
▢ 3. Communicate clear family rules and expectations for substance use, and make it an ongoing conversation.
Parental disapproval of youth substance use makes it less likely that a young person will use substances. If you co-parent with a partner or spouse, talk with each other about your values regarding substance use and find agreed upon rules for your household–and then communicate them clearly to your child(ren) and repeat them often. Some parents assume that their kids know what the rules are without having explicitly stated them or after just one conversation.
▢ 4. Make a plan with the young person in your life for how they can escape an uncomfortable social situation–and practice it.
Some families devise a ‘code word’ that a young person might use to let a family member know they want to get picked up, and others practice ‘excuses’ that they can give their peers if they are at a party and aren’t drinking or using drugs. For more firsthand accounts from parents who practiced these strategies with their kids, check out this dad’s description of his family’s ‘X-Plan.’
▢ 5. Lock up and monitor substances in your home,
including alcohol, marijuana (cannabis), nicotine products, and prescription medications to prevent them from being accessed by young people. Consider asking family members to do the same.
▢ 6. Stay informed and learn the facts.
For more information about commonly used substances, please visit the Substances 101 section of this website.
▢ 7. If you drink alcohol or use other substances like marijuana, be a role model when it comes to your own consumption.
▢ 8. Whenever possible, try to host family and other social gatherings in which alcohol is not a featured part of celebrations.
If alcohol is served at an event you are hosting, keep alcohol in secure areas where young people cannot access them. In Massachusetts, social hosts can be held criminally and civilly liable for providing alcohol to underage youth or for ‘over serving’ alcohol to adults over 21.
▢ 9. Never drive while under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or certain prescription medications.
Prescription medications will list on their labels if there is a risk associated with operating a vehicle while taking them. If you are not certain, check with your prescriber or pharmacist.
▢ 10. Monitor prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications,
by keeping track of amounts of medications, and dispose of unused or expired medications in a safe, environmentally- friendly manner through medication disposal kiosk at the Natick Police Department that can be accessed 24/7.
▢ 11. Be aware of common household items that can be misused, such as inhalants.
These might include common cleaning products, aerosols, or even whipped cream dispensers. Safely store and monitor these items to ensure that they are not being used in unsafe ways.
▢ 12. Know where your kids are and whose houses they are visiting.
It is a good idea to reach out to the parents of your kids’ friends and know whether they are home.
▢ 13. If there is a family history of addiction in your family and you think it would be appropriate, consider sharing this information with your teen or young adult.
Of course, a family history of substance use disorder is only one of many factors that can contribute to addiction, and it is important for you to determine what you feel is appropriate to share with your young person. But it can be empowering for young people to learn if they are at higher risk for addiction because of a family history, and sharing that information in an age-appropriate manner can build trust. Although they are completely different medical issues, some parents in recovery use the example of allergies as a quick and easy way to explain to their child(ren) that they might be at higher risk of addiction than their peers. Just as a parent or grandparent’s allergy to penicillin might increase the risk–but not guarantee–that a child could develop an allergy, a family history of substance use disorder could heighten the chances that a young person could become addicted. Caution them that it is a factor they should consider when making their own decisions around substance use.
▢ 14. Build your support system around the topic of youth substance use prevention.
This may include other parents, school personnel, faith leaders, and local health care professionals. Have intentional conversations with people you trust, and don’t be afraid to ask them how they approach conversations with young people.
▢ 15. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the answers.
As a parent/caring adult, it can be difficult to know how to react in every situation, and the young person in your life might ask you questions that catch you off guard. It’s okay to press pause on a conversation. You can always let a young person know that you need time to learn more about a topic, or you can offer to research the information together. What is important is that you follow-up so that your teen/young adult knows that their questions/concerns are important to you and that they can rely on you to help them find answers.
You can be a part of our community-wide efforts to prevent and reduce substance use in Natick.