Counselor’s Corner: 5 Parenting Strategies to Head Off Teen Substance Use

Elysia Tucker, LPC, ADC
is the Executive Director of
Southern Wellness Services, Inc.

Parenting a teenager can be hard. Hormones are raging, cell phones are constantly buzzing, and suddenly, it’s embarrassing to be seen with you in public. In that space between childhood and adulthood, teenagers still need guidance, and parents can find themselves struggling with the right way to approach such topics as drinking, drugs, and smoking. Here are five strategies for heading off teen substance use:

  1. Communication – Try to communicate with your teen calmly and clearly. Remember that once you start yelling, they stop listening. Give your teen an opportunity to ask questions without judgment, and they will be more likely to openly communicate with you.
  2. Encouragement – It can be easy to focus on negative behaviors, but don’t get caught in this trap. Remember to encourage positive behaviors that you see in your teens. Everyone likes to be “caught being good.”
  3. Problem Solving – Model problem solving for your teen, and guide them in that process. Work as a team to find positive and safe solutions to difficult situations that may arise before they do, and your teen will be ahead of the game.
  4. Setting Limits – Although teenagers experience more freedom than younger children, it is important to be clear about your expectations and to set limits when you see negative behaviors. Find a respectful way to set limits when you see your teen displaying negative behaviors early on and don’t wait until behaviors become serious before stopping them.
  5. Supervision – Peers become a child’s single biggest influence during the teenage years. Everyone remembers doing something because they were dared. Make sure that your teen is not spending too much time unsupervised. Remember that they are not adults yet, and they still need guidance and supervision.


If you need more help with any of these strategies, or your teen is struggling with substance use, we can help. Call Southern Wellness Services at 256-284-7080. Appointments are available within 48 hours.

Elysia Tucker, LPC, ADC, is the Executive Director of Southern Wellness Services, Inc., in Florence.  Her column appears weekly on ShoalsInsider.com. 

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