Five Teachable Moments

Having trouble talking to your teen about the risks of drugs and alcohol?                                            

Here are five everyday examples of easy ways to bring up the topic.

1. Fictional Character

You just took your teen to a PG-13 movie in which one of the main characters drinks and smokes excessively. It's a good thing you insisted on tagging along, because now you have the opportunity to discuss the film—especially that lead character's addiction—with your teen. Did your son think the main character's drug use was cool or did he recognize that she had a problem?

2. Movie Star

Your daughter reads every magazine she's in, owns all her movies, and has her posters taped to her wall. So what happens when her magical movie star goes to rehab for the third time? When that famous face graces the cover of Us Weekly, ask your daughter why she thinks Britney or Lindsay or Paris or whoever it may be this week is such a cool person. If your daughter only cares about her expensive clothes and good looks, remind her that her role model should also be someone who drinks responsibly and either doesn't do drugs or has taken the initiative to get help for her drug problem.

3. Professional Athlete

For as long as you can remember, you've taught your daughter that "cheaters never win." Unfortunately, this holds true when her favorite athlete is in the news for taking drugs. Ask your daughter how she feels about professional athletes using illegal substances of any kind and point out how much it can hurt a person's career and reputation—especially when they get caught.

4. Classmate

You don't need a movie star to get the conversation going with your teen. Let's say two kids in your son's school were found getting high off prescription drugs - and were handing out the pills to other students. A lot can come out of this conversation - the consequences of getting caught on school property, why you never want your son to take prescription pills that aren't his, and of course, the dangers of abusing Rx medications. Remind your teen that painkillers contain the same ingredients as the street drug heroin, and that a mixture of pills in his system could be deadly. 

5. Relative

Substance abuse issues can often hit close to home, and it's important that we're open and honest with our kids when it happens. If you can, tell them all the details about your relative who is struggling. Explain why there's a problem and how you, as a family, are going to do what you can to support one another through this tough time. If your teen isn't asking a ton of questions, that's okay—he might be feeling uncomfortable about the topic. It might help to emphasize that while addiction can wreak havoc on a person's life, it is always possible for him or her to make a recovery with the support of friends and family. (For stories of people in recovery visit