How to Say "No"

Everyone wants to fit in. But what do you do if you’re at a party and everyone’s drinking alcohol? Or doing drugs? It helps to already have a strategy in place—to know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to handle the situation. You can ask your parents or a friend to help you come up with a great one-liner. Some kids like to say “no” and be done with it. Others like to say something funny.

If saying “no” makes you feel uncomfortable, blame your parents! Say something like, “I got in trouble with my parents once when I was drinking and I’m not going through that again.” Or, “My parents are coming to pick me up and they have alcohol radar.” You can also blame it on your coach —“I have a game tomorrow and Coach would kill me—or “I don’t want to blow my scholarship opportunity.” If you’re going to a party with a friend, and you think there may be alcohol or drugs there, develop a strategy together. Pick a signal that you and your friend can use when it’s time to leave, if the situation gets uncomfortable to be around. Or ask in advance if there will be alcohol or drugs at the party, so you can decide in advance if you even want to be put in that situation.

How to Help a Friend

Do you have a friend who is drinking alcohol or doing drugs? Are you worried about them? Are they doing reckless things, like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Are they engaging in risky sexual behavior as a result of drugs or alcohol? Are their grades going down?

If your friend’s drinking makes you uncomfortable, you should let them know, and why. Let him or her know that you are worried about them. You should also try to make sure your friend stays safe. Don’t let them drink and drive, and certainly don’t ride with them if they do. Try to keep them from doing anything dangerous or embarrassing, like trying to walk home alone late at night, starting a fight or performing a silly prank.

Ask your friend if they need help, or suggest they go talk to someone who can help them, like a school counselor. If they don’t listen and you are still worried, it’s time to talk to your parents, or a counselor at school. As adults, they will know how to handle the situation, and make sure that your friend gets the help he or she needs.

You may feel weird about talking to an adult about this, but that’s better than having regrets because you didn’t talk to someone. Kids who drink or do drugs can really hurt themselves, or even die, due to risky behavior. If you care for your friend, do something.

How To Talk To Your Parents

Have you ever tried to talk to your parents about something important, and felt like they didn’t hear you? Or did you try to talk about something and end up not talking about the very thing that was on your mind? This is actually very normal, but it’s also a little dangerous. If you aren’t able to talk to your parents about what’s really on your mind, you could end up feeling like you’re living two lives: one they know about, and one they don’t. And if they don’t understand who you really are, how can they really be there for you?

There are some simple things you can do to talk to your parents more effectively about every day things, and big stuff, too, like drugs and alcohol.

  • Use an item from the TV news, magazine or internet to start a conversation. Or use a school project to start a conversation about a subject that’s a little uncomfortable for you. For example, “When we were in health class today, we were talking about drugs like marijuana, and I had some questions…”
  • If you have questions about drugs or alcohol, don’t be afraid to ask your parents. If you’re afraid to ask because they might think you are drinking or taking drugs, reassure them at the very beginning. For example, “Mom, I’m not doing drugs, but I have some questions. Can we talk about it?”
  • If a friend is making you uncomfortable by drinking or doing drugs, and you want some advice—but you don’t want to “tell” on your friend, try this, “Dad, can I ask your advice about something? It’s about a friend of mine, but I don’t want to tell you who it is. I’m more concerned about getting your advice, than getting my friend into trouble.”
  • You don’t have to talk to your parents about everything, but sometimes a friend your age doesn’t have the advice you need. Don’t be afraid to talk to a teacher, a school counselor, a friend’s mom or dad, or someone at church. Most adults are willing to give you advice. If it’s important that your parents not know about the conversation, ask the adult up front if you can talk to them in confidence.
  • If you want your parents to trust you, be trustworthy.
  • If you want to be understood, make sure you communicate with them.
  • Try not to have serious talks in the height of emotion—when you are angry, sad or irritable. Ask your parents if it’s a good time to have a talk before launching into a serious conversation. They may not be up for an intense conversation right after work, or while driving in heavy traffic.
  • Ask your parents what they think about something. Truly listen to what they have to say, or to their point of view and try to see things through their eyes. Oftentimes parents overreact when they are worried or scared about what could happen to you. Fear and concern make people act a little crazy. It’s okay to ask them what they’re afraid of.
  • If you’ve got a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t be afraid to talk to them. You can also talk to another adult and ask them to talk to your parents for you. If you’ve got a problem, it’s important to ask someone to help you.