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Age 9-13

Speak Now, Here’s How

They're still your kids, but now they're transitioning into adulthood. As grown-up as they seem (or see themselves) young adults look to their parents for guidance and support. As young adults transition to college or a job, the role parents play in their lives remains important.

Here are some techniques to remember when speaking with your young adult about alcohol and drugs.

Keep the Conversation Going

  • You are not done. While young adults are going to make more and more of their own decisions, they will still look to you for guidance and support.
  • Keep avenues of communication open. Continue asking your children about their lives, likes, and interests. Be informed about their routines and their relationships at college or at work. Let them know you are genuinely interested in their lives.

Stay Connected

  • Stay in touch. Whether your young adult lives at home or has moved out, talk with them often. A call, text, an email, or a weekend visit are all ways to stay connected.
  • Show support. Life after high school is filled with changes and can be an overwhelming transition for young adults. Remind your kids that you are there for them and they can always count on you. Let them know you are a source of support and information.
  • Offer help. While they might be reluctant to admit it, young adults still need you for emotional support. Ask open-ended questions about how things are going and ask them if and how you can help them.

Set Expectations

  • Be clear about what you expect. Keep reinforcing your expectations for your kids: doing well in classes at college, being a good employee, etc. Understanding your desire to see them succeed can help them make positive decisions to avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Set goals. Young adults are reaching an age where their future is truly in sight. By talking about where they see themselves in the next year or two and how to get there you can encourage them to stay proactive about achieving their goals.
  • Reiterate rules. If your young adult is living on their own, or at college, you can still make it clear that alcohol and drugs are off-limits at home and around you. Make it clear that they need to respect you as a parent or caregiver, and that they have to respect your home and your space.
  • There's still the law. Underage drinking and the illegal use and possession of drugs are against the law. Remind your children that, even when they might no longer have to obey you, the law establishes rules of behavior they still need to follow.

Promote Responsibility

  • Respect their independence. Be mindful of the balance between staying connected and “meddling." You can continue to be involved in a young adult's life, but give them space and freedom to start building their independence.
  • Let them learn. As tempting as coming to the rescue might be, this is a time for kids to learn how to solve problems on their own. You can provide emotional support if they come upon a crisis, but focus on stressing the importance of making responsible decisions as the best way to keep the same problem from happening again, especially if the problem involves use of alcohol or drugs.

Encourage Balance

  • Life and work balance. A full college course load or working several jobs can be a big change from high school. Sometimes people will turn to alcohol or drugs in an effort to manage stress. Talk to your children about the importance of maintaining a balance in their lives, and speaking up if they're feeling overwhelmed.
  • Find healthy alternatives. Substance use is a tempting way to “cut loose" after a stressful day or week. Explain that alcohol and drugs often leave people feeling worse and don't truly relieve stress. Healthy alternatives like practicing a sport, doing yoga, walking, and jogging are good alternatives that can help let some steam out.

Practice Assertiveness

  • Create “out" plans together. Saying “my parents would disapprove," doesn't carry much weight when a young adult is offered alcohol or drugs. However, you can still talk about what types of things can give your child an “out" to avoid pressure situations.

“Out" Lines

“My job does random drug testing and I can’t afford to lose it.”

“Thanks but I have to wake up really early tomorrow because

“I’m good. I’m my friends’ ride home tonight.”

“I’m really trying to cut back.”

“It’s just not really my thing. I’m just not interested.”


Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility: Parents, You’re Not Done Yet.

Minnesota Office of Higher Education: Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

North Dakota State University Extension Service: Tips for Talking to Your College Student about Alcohol or Other Drug Use

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