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OK – here’s the bad news…the vast majority of adolescents will have used drugs or alcohol by the end of high school and the odds are pretty good that your kids will too – no matter what you do.

But that doesn’t mean that parents have no role to play in reducing the likelihood or amount and frequency of experimentation. In fact, studies show that parents who stay actively involved in their children’s lives and monitor their activities are far less likely to have kids who get into serious trouble with substance abuse.1

So if your son or daughter has been using drugs or alcohol, you needn’t feel shocked, but do you need to make it stop. You need to sit down and have a serious talk about what’s been going on and you need to clearly define the family’s rules on drinking and drug use – and clearly define the consequences for violations of those rules.

If, after your talk, your teen continues to use drugs or alcohol and you cannot get them to stop, then it’s time to solicit professional help before the problem gets any worse – but you can’t do this unless you’re involved enough in his or her life to be able to spot any further drug or alcohol use quickly, before things truly do get out of hand.

So, if you know your son or daughter has been using drugs or alcohol, you need to be on the ball and ready to spot any further use – and you can do this by increasing your monitoring of their activities.

5 Ways to Monitor Your Teen to Spot Drinking or Drug Use


1. Be Around

Spend more time with your son or daughter around the house and make sure you know what’s going on in their lives. When friends come over to hang out, drop in to check on what’s going on every now and again. After all…what hungry teen doesn’t enjoy a surprise plate of snacks, and delivering those spur of the moment snacks gives you a perfect opportunity to peek in and see what they’re all up to. They’ll know you’re checking in but at the end of the day, keeping them safe is your job and checking in is your right, especially after you’ve already found them drinking or using drugs.

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2. Know the Details

Always know their plans before they go out. Try to always know where they’re going, who is going to be there and what they plan to be doing.

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3. Check Up

So your son is at a friend’s house for a small party tonight? Show him you’re thinking about him by calling to see how he’s doing, to remind him of your expectations and to tell him you love him! Knowing that you’re going to be calling to see what’s going on can be a deterrent in itself and sometimes the way he answers your questions on the phone tells you a lot about what’s really going on in any given situation.

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4. Make Contact with Other Parents

There is real strength in numbers and in community, especially when parenting teens. Reach out to the parents of your teen’s friends and make an effort to work together to keep everyone safe and happy. Once you develop a friendly relationship with other parents you’ll feel a lot more comfortable when calling to check up on what’s really going on and to see if your teen is really where she said she would be.

Although no one likes to be checked up on, tell your son or daughter in advance that you will be calling to confirm their whereabouts and activities and remind them that it is your job as a parent to keep them safe. Remind them also that it is because of prior incidents with alcohol or drug use that you feel compelled to increase your monitoring of their behaviors, to make sure that past transgressions don’t repeat.

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5. Talk to Them When They Get Home

Always make an effort to spend a few minutes talking with your son or daughter as they come in the door at night. These bursts of conversation and attention are the building blocks of meaningful relationships and they really help you to stay abreast of what’s going on in his or her life. Additionally, the one thing an intoxicated teen doesn’t want to do when she gets home from a night out is to sit down at the table with you to chat – so make sure that’s exactly what you do! 2


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Page last updated Dec 12, 2011

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