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Discussing Addiction

You can prepare your young adult for their young adult years by openly discussing substance abuse and addiction and letting them know you will be there for them.

Your young adult does not need you to helicopter, but they also don’t need you to disappear. Find the right balance by paying attention to what questions they ask you, what they are comfortable sharing, and creating a schedule check in time where you talk about classes, friends, and interests. If they see you as approachable, then they will approach you for help. They are launching into adulthood so they need supports when they fail (not rescuing). Teach them about problem solving, finding resources, and being assertive. Continue to help them with appropriate goal setting, especially now, when they are going to be responsible for setting their own goals. Again, help them focus on exit strategies and how to stay away from dangerous situations. 


Emotional regulation is a key to success for young adults. Teaching them mindfulness strategies is an easy way to help them learn to manage their emotions better. Young adults are at great risk for developing anxiety, depression, and mental disorders – teach them how to seek help if their emotions become too much to handle. On campus, contact the student wellness center with your child and make sure they know what resources are available. The most critical thing you can do for your child is to talk to them – and keep talking to them about how much you love them, how their hard work and good choices will get them where they want to go, and how important they are to you. The messages get through and will help them feel tied to you in a way that will make using drugs and alcohol look like the bad choice it is. 


  • Sudden or dramatic changes in social contact, grades, appetite, sleep, weight, hygiene, etc
  • Skipping classes
  • Hard to get them on phone or connect with them at all
  • Depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidality
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Finances 
  • Lying or stealing
  • Cheating
  • Covering up or evasiveness when you ask questions
  • Irritability
  • Feeling like they don’t fit in
  • Fatigue 
  • Sleeping all day
  • Decrease performance at work or school 
  • Lack of motivation


What you can do:   

Teach them decision making – weighing pros and cons and determining if the risk is worth the negative outcome

Teach them problem solving – how to get out of situations and how to deal with frustration

Talk to them about their goals in life, help them develop a plan, and give them tools to help them get there

Mindfulness and other emotional regulation strategies can help decrease emotional distress which can help prevent substance use

Show them how to get professional help if they need it

Be supportive, respect their independence, and allow them the chance to fail

Do not enable their risky or poor choices

Set good boundaries and clear expectations

Listen without judgment 

Help them find ways to get involved with a hobby or interest while they are on campus or as a young adult 

Teach them how to say no and be assertive


“I know you’re headed off to start your own life but remember that I’m always here for you. I will be here if you need help and I will try my best to not judge. I won’t solve your problems, but I will help if you ask.”

“You are old enough to make your own choices, but if you ever want another perspective on things, just ask me. I’ll try my hardest to help you out without judging you for your decisions.”

“Not everyone in college drinks and does drugs. Remember who you are and stay true to that when you are making decisions – you don’t need to drink or do drugs to fit in, to make friends, and to be successful.”

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