My daughter started middle school this year (she is 11) and tonight at dinner she told me that during an assembly some teachers had shared tragic stories about friends and family members who abused drugs and/or alcohol. One story involved a teen who drank until he passed out and then died from choking on his own vomit.

Our conversation evolved into us talking about the kinds of situations she might be exposed to as she is getting older and how she might act in those situations. We talked about what she could do if she was at a party where kids were drinking and/or passing out. I wanted to emphasize ways that she can stay safe, help her friends stay safe and most importantly that she can always call her parents if she's in a dicey situation and needs help.

She assured me there was nothing to worry about because she would never drink or touch drugs. I told her I think it's great that she feels that way now, but that should things change I would rather have her talk to me about it than feel that she can't because she once promised she would never do those things.

At the end of our talk, she asked me if I drank alcohol in high school and if I smoked pot before I was 18 (where we live recreational cannabis is legal for 21 & up). I told her that I did experiment a bit and gave her some context around that and told her I wished I had waited until I was older. She seemed satisfied with that for now, but I know these questions will come up again.

My early teen years were traumatic and I was rebellious and self-destructive. My later teen years and 20's were pretty colorful as well. How do I balance honesty and open communication with keeping communications age-appropriate and constructive? Do I just edit out large parts of my life experience?

  • 1
    In addition to the fine answer below, keep in mind that kids idealize their parents, so if you have to later add some more context, frame it from the idea that it possibly presented some obstacles and hindrance to becoming the fine adult human being and parent you are, if you're worried about sending too much of a "it's fine, no worries" message. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


Sounds to me, like you and your daughter had a very healthy and honest conversation - and trust me when I say, those are the kind that work.

I worked with adolescents for ten years as a health and science teacher as well as was advisor to a class of about 20 eighth grade kids each year. Considering the fact that I had around 100 kids each year I taught, you can say I've got quite a lot of experience with this age group (not to mention training) and there is nothing they appreciate more than honesty packaged with the respect to know how it is today may be different from how it is tomorrow.

The students I had whose parents took an open "I'll answer their questions, but not neccessarily volunteer every bloody detail" were often the parents who really did know what was going on with their kids, struggle and strain or peace and perfection and everything in between.

I'd say, just make sure your conversations stay with that same goal in mind and also always get the idea across that you made mistakes and see your choices during your teen years as self-destructive. I'm guessing from what you've already said that she is a smart kid who will want to learn from your mistakes rather than follow them anyway.

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    +1 for "I'll answer their questions, but not necessarily volunteer every bloody detail". If you start by being honest, then your kid(s) will know you're being honest later on as well. My high school students used to ask me personal questions about my teenage years, and I answered them honestly but appropriately. But it also meant that when they asked me if I'd ever smoked pot and I told them No, I have not, they knew I wasn't lying to just to make myself look good. It's all about building trust.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 22:55
  • 2
    @balanced mama, your answer was beyond reassuring to me. After this conversation with my daughter ended, I felt a bit blindsided and wondered if I had revealed too much. What you said about your students and their parents confirms what I felt intuitively to be true, and so far the approach seems to be working. One of my biggest priorities is to keep the communication flowing so that when the big stuff happens, I'm in the loop.
    – beansa
    Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 4:03
  • I am so glad! Going forward, it will be nice to have that confidence in yourself and your intuition. Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 4:06

The answer largely depends on your daughter. How do you think she'd react?

Full honesty is fine, and the approach my spouse and I took. At times my kids held it over my head a bit, but they knew us better for it and it worked out well for us. I think it might have helped them get a good idea of how the world worked and not to make bad assumptions.

The main big fear with honesty is that they'll follow in your footsteps. I just don't buy it. Some kids might tell themselves, "Mom did this so why can't I?", but this is just a rationalization. The kid could come up with one of a hundred others if they didn't have that one.

A lot of hiding and even lying is also fine. It's not going to hurt anything to polish it up a bit. If it's a big lie, just understand what that means about what you think of your kid.


I believe you know pretty well how drug propaganda works. Governments, media and institutions generalize all drugs, they say they are all lethal, and bring major physical and mental problems. The war on drugs was lost before even starting, prohibition doesn't work. When USA made Alcohol illegal in the 1920s, percentage of drinkers rose more than double of what they were. Countries like Holland, Portugal and Czech Republic have the lowest percentage of drug users in Europe.

Prohibiting drugs and lying about them does not help, has never helped. Many parents in the world believe all drugs are the same, they are lethal and if you use them once, you fall into addiction for life. Drug education is among the most important reforms in today's society. And I strongly believe parents are the right students for such classes. Teenagers and youngsters nowadays have many websites/forums were proper drug information can be found, but the internet is riddled with prohibitionist sites full of incorrect information.

I really recommend you to be honest with your child, treat her as a friend, not as a parent. Show her websites that have proper drug information so she can learn everything about safe use and medicinal benefits and so on. Teach her that it's right to be curious, but nothing should be overdone. There is a famous latin phrase: Sola dosis facit venenum (The dosage makes the poison). There are lots of compounds that can be used for emotional and spiritual healing, medical applications, while many others might help deal with pain for a few hours, but will totally destroy you if overdone.

Finally, my advice would be honesty and friendship. Your daughter needs someone she can trust, someone she can get advice from. Don't let governments and media fool you and the people you care about. Prohibition has only brought addiction, abuse, death, desperation, annihilation, social and medical decadence. Education is the only viable way to make people understand what psychoactive substances are, how should they be used, and which of them have the best application for specific disorders.

I wish you and your family the best.

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    Hi, welcome to the site. I've edited your post some to remove content unrelated to the question asked; I'd also ask that you source your statistics above or remove them (particularly, the drug use in europe, the % of drinkers in prohibition, the frequency of parents finding all drugs equally lethal). I softened that last one by removing the %, but I'd still like to see a citation (and you can add back in the 80% if it's backed by the citation). Thanks!
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 19:30
  • The 80% is just common sense, the rest of the statistics are correct. Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 18:23
  • That’s fine, but you need to post the citations backing that please.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 18:23
  • recoverybrands.com/drugs-in-america-vs-europe Here's a comparison between USA and Europe. Not very detailed, but informative.. Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 18:28
  • druglibrary.org/prohibitionresults1.htm Here you'll find some interesting insights from government officials during the 20' about the abuse and production of alcohol during prohibition Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 18:36

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