It’s a talk most parents fear: explaining drugs and alcohol to our kids. How do we talk to them? When do we talk to them? And perhaps most importantly: What will prepare our kids to be safe when they walk into a high school party?
Because sticking your head in the sand and pretending your kid will never party isn’t an option. As New York City psychiatrist Dr. Greg Dillon tells SheKnows, “Prepare for the party is the absolute right message, as the party is happening.”
That’s exactly what the SheKnows #HatchKids said when they sat down for a no-holds-barred talk about teenage party culture. Not only do they know kids who are using drugs and alcohol, they know where to find it all… and they’re not convinced their parents know what they’re talking about:
If the notion that teenagers feel uncomfortable enough with parties to get drunk beforehand hit you hard, you’re not alone. Stacy Kramer’s 16-year-old daughter is one of the #HatchKids. She considers her relationship with her daughter to be fairly open, and they’ve certainly talked about drugs and alcohol.
She knew when the #HatchKids broached party culture that her daughter would be talking about some tough stuff. “It’s hard to be a teen in New York, where things like drugs can be delivered right to your door,” Kramer tells SheKnows. But hearing kids talk about the social anxiety and its relationship to substance abuse was especially revelatory, as it’s something adults can identify with as readily as other teens.
“We’ve all felt that,” Kramer says, “[We’ve all] used alcohol as a social lubricant.”
What’s more, many adults do so because of their own anxieties. It’s no coincidence that 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression have an alcohol or other substance use disorder… and 20 percent of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder. Certainly kids don’t have to have an actual disorder to be using illegal substances, but there’s a direct correlation.
“The historic and chronic formula for teen drinking/drug use is that exponential anxiety (heightened emotions, broad perceptual beta, intense situational pressures) demand a convenient and immediate response,” Dillon points out.
Kramer is encouraged to hear teens talking about ways their parents can reach them, but as a mom she sees an opportunity for kids to talk to one another about their common anxieties.
“I don’t think any child is open with their parents,” she admits. “There’s a lot they want to keep quiet.”
But if parents open the door, and kids talk to one another, perhaps they’ll feel less alone in their social anxiety. “Most people are feeling awkward, whether you’re alone in the corner or the center of the party,” Kramer says.
Making kids feel less alone is key to reaching them, Dillon says.
“Keep in mind that the greatest modulator of teen drug use and drinking is shame (more lightly embarrassment, fear),” he notes. “Therefore, talking with teens, not schooling or threatening, but just opening up the conversation is most effective. It demystifies the process — breaking down the shame cycle — and lays drug/alcohol bare as a tool, defense mechanism as opposed to an entitlement, rite of passage, or badge of honor.”
Use our discussion guide to talk to your own teen about party culture and #PrepareForTheParty.