The teen years are difficult for adolescents and their parents alike. As your teenager begins to explore the world and develop their identity, they may push your boundaries to test the limits. While a little teenage rebellion is normal and healthy during this time of life, when drugs enter the picture, you need to intervene. This is especially important if you suspect your teen is experimenting with or may have access to heroin. However, you may already struggle to communicate with your teen without them shutting down or getting defensive. If you are feeling daunted about this conversation, here are some tips that you can use to guide your discussion to be as successful as possible.

Create the Right Environment

If you want your teen to take you seriously, it’s important to not ambush or threaten them. This will only cause them to become defensive and stop the conversation in its tracks. Consider bringing this up when you’re spending quality time with them. Share a meal or watch a movie so you’re both relaxed and comfortable, then bring the topic up. Make sure you talk when you’re in private and out of earshot of other family members.

Make a Plan

This is not a conversation to play by ear, particularly if you have reason to suspect that your teen is using heroin. Take some time to write out everything you want to address. Prepare yourself to respond to however they may react, whether they adamantly deny drug use, respond with embarrassment, or admit that they need help. Preparing yourself ensures that you can guide the conversation the way you want it to go.

Set Clear Boundaries

It might seem obvious that it is against your rules for your child to do drugs of any kind, but any ambiguity on the subject should be addressed during this conversation. Clearly spell out your stance on drug use and the consequences they would face. These types of boundaries make it easier for kids to face peer pressure because they know the limits. If they are ever put into a situation where they are being pushed to do something that makes them uncomfortable, they can use you as an excuse out of it.

Explain Your Point of View

Be clear about why your child is prohibited from heroin use. Your teenager is given orders all the time without explanation, and when you are open and honest with your reasoning for these rules, it makes for a more adult conversation. Give them the truth about the consequences of substance abuse, but be honest and rational about it. Drinking one beer is different than using heroin, for example. That being said, any substance comes with its risks, which you should familiarize your child with so they can make educated decisions.

Treat Them with Respect

There is nothing that derails a conversation with a teenager faster than condescension. Speak with your teenager the way that you would want to be spoken to. Remember that they aren’t a child anymore, and at the end of the day, they are the ones making the choice whether or not to do heroin. If you treat them with respect, they are more likely to reciprocate it and not experiment with drugs.

Keep Calm

If your teen is using heroin, they may become quite defensive, angry, or dismissive in response to you bringing up this topic. This could lead the conversation to evolve into a shouting match and/or hurt feelings on both sides. Keep your emotions in check to ensure that the conversation doesn’t go off the rails. While it’s okay to show the concern you feel on your face, if you can’t hold your composure, you will not make any progress.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Like any serious subject, one conversation about heroin will not be sufficient. As your teen grows and changes, new risks around substance use will evolve. Keep your eyes peeled for any changes that indicate heroin use, such as withdrawing from friends and family, extreme changes in appearance or demeanor, or loss of interest in academics and other school-related activities. In the meantime, let them know that you will be checking in about this regularly, and that if anything comes up for them, they are always welcome to talk to you about it. Keeping the lines of communication open ensures that you will be a resource for them, rather than someone they have to hide things from. With time, they will feel more comfortable coming to you for these issues.


Child Mind Institute

Life Hack

National Institutes of Health