Wondering how to talk to your child about tobacco?

Back to school conversations can help your teen make healthy choices this school year

As your family gets ready for back-to-school, now is a great time to check in with your teens about tobacco use and the use of other drugs and alcohol.

“One of the best ways for parents to make a positive impact on their teen’s decisions is to have frequent and meaningful conversations,” said Taylor Lawson, assessment supervisor at Island County Public Health. “Research has shown that adults are the number-one influence in their teens’ lives, so regular conversations really do make a difference.”

Having a hard time getting the conversation started? Keep the following tips in mind:

Conversations don’t need to be ‘serious’ to be effective

In fact, it’s probably best to keep conversations lighthearted. Fear tactics don’t work with teens. Instead, stick with the facts — that way they know you’re a trusted source of information and support.

Conversation flows easier during passive activities

Try starting the conversation while driving your teen to a friend’s house, an event or some other activity. Participate in activities together, leaving ample time to talk, so you both feel more connected. Go on an evening walk, spend the afternoon at a lake or take an art class together — bonus points for activities that your teen really enjoys.

Conversations shouldn’t focus solely on why drugs are bad

It’s probably safe to assume that your child knows that drugs, alcohol and tobacco are not good for them. Balance conversations about the dangers of these substances with conversations about healthy coping, mental health, their peers and their life goals.

  • Healthy coping: Substance use, stress and mental health go hand-in-hand. Watch for signs that your teen is stressed, and use those opportunities to reinforce healthy coping strategies such ase getting creative, getting active and asking for help.
  • Talk about their social life: Getting to know your teen’s friends is a good way to learn what is happening in their lives. It also gives you a chance to watch for early signs that something may be going on, such as a sudden change in friends they hang out with.
  • Short- and long-term goals: Goals don’t need to be concrete to be effective. Something as simple as getting their driver’s license or saving up for their first car can help keep them headed down a healthy path.

Educate yourself about teen tobacco use

Know the facts about tobacco so you can provide accurate information when speaking with your teen. Get those facts online at starttalkingnow.org or InicieLaConversacion.org and encourage your teen to gather their own research from reliable resources such as youcanwa.org

Is your teen already experimenting with substances?

Find supportive resources and partners at the South Whidbey CARES Coalition, Oak Harbor Youth Coalition, and Island County Public Health. Watch for Island County Public Health’s guide to handling teen use of cannabis and tobacco products on Sept. 4 for more support.

READ MORE: Empower your teen to make healthy life choices

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