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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Helping Teens Make Good Choices

Teens face tough choices. Should I try smoking a cigarette? Should I go to a party where beer will be served? What if my friends want me to try pot? Should I have sex with my boyfriend?

Teens need parents who listen. When teens need help making tough decisions, they WILL turn to parents who listen. If you want your teen to come to you for help, set the stage by being a good listener.

Encourage your teen to describe the problem. Ask how he or she feels about the problem. Really listen. Try to put yourself in your child's shoes.

Talk with your teen about choices. Help your teen see that there may be more than one way to solve the problem. Encourage your teen to think of several possible solutions.

Help your teen see the pros and cons for each choice. Ask your teen how each choice will affect his or her goals. For example, "How would smoking affect your making the basketball team?" Point out (without lecturing) the possible results of each choice.

Help your teen make a plan. Help your teen plan ahead what to say if a friend offers a drink. Make sure your child knows how to reach you if he or she needs to leave a party.

Praise your teen for talking with you. This is behavior you want to encourage!

Later, ask your teen how things worked out. Help your teen think about what he or she learned. Praise your teen for making good choices, and help your teen learn from mistakes.

Let your teen know that you love him or her and that you have faith in his or her ability to make good choices. Respect your teen's opinions, even when you disagree. Help your teen to set realistic goals.

Some of the information on this fact sheet was adapted from "The Parent Package: About Helping Your Teen Make Responsible Choices", copyright 2002, American Medical Association.

This material was developed by the TRUE Family Program, Department of Family Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, and adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2011.

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Last Reviewed: Jun 16, 2011

Sybil K Marsh, MD, MA Sybil K Marsh, MD, MA
Associate Professor of Family Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University