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Giving Teens Ways to Say “No”

Post Series: Substance Abuse Prevention - Parent
  • 1.Giving Teens Ways to Say “No”

Giving teens ways to say “no”

No. It is one of the first words we learn to say. Yet, it is a word many of us may not always use. Teens are faced with circumstances and choices that require a strong stance. Even adults, when put on the spot, tend to say what we think will please another person. Knowing to say ‘no’ and actually being able to do it are not the same. Teens need to know HOW to say no.

Speak for yourself

Friends hold a strong bond and act in groups, enjoying victory together and also taking blame for one another. Friends build loyalties from little on. This loyalty can be put to the test as kids grow older. Teens need to know how to speak up for themselves at times of conflict and act individually without sacrificing a friendship. It doesn’t always come naturally. Teach your child to act in their comfort zone. Don’t critique the actions, just respond for yourself and make good choices.

Scenario: Underage drinking. Your child arrives at someone’s house and some kids have brought a bottle of liquor. Everyone is mixing drinks. Thoughts going through your child’s mind may be: ‘I’ll be the only one not drinking’, ‘Everyone will think I’m not cool’, ‘How will I be able to drive home?’

Response: I’m good, thanks. I didn’t bring my own. I’ll stick to diet Dew.

Assess situation

Making decisions when ‘in the moment’ creates a lot of pressure. Help your child learn to quickly assess the pros and cons of a situation and know what will be the most impactful. Decisions can be made on short-term response or long-term effects. Keep in mind that teens may only think about the immediate. This is where the parents can guide good choices. Talk to your child about the immediate results.

Scenario: Smoking a cigarette. Everyone is doing it; kids may think it’s cool. Flip side: it’s unhealthy and costs money. Immediate thought: I may choke as I inhale, which could be embarrassing!

Response: Hey, I think I’ll pass on it tonight. Just not feeling it.

Have responses ready in your hip pocket

Facing peer pressure and being ready with a response is not easy. Kids may know deep down how they want to choose or respond, but they have never been put into the situation. Role-play scenarios and practice responses with them. Offer the ‘blame the parent’ option. It helps kids save face when put into uncomfortable situations.

Scenario: Doing drugs.  Your child is out with friends and a group of “popular” kids approach them. Everyone is getting along fine when the group starts smoking pot and using other substances.

Response: You know, my parents are quick. They can spot this stuff a mile away. I’m not interested in a confrontation with them.

Coach your child through the many controversial issues they may end up experiencing. Give them an opportunity to answer for themselves and own their decisions. Provide suggestions and make sure they know you understand the pressures they face. Keep lines of communication open.

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