Parents: How Much Do They Influence You?

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A teenage boy talking to his mother.

Someone offers you a cigarette or a beer. In the split second that you have to consider your answer, what do you think about?

What your friends will think?

What about what your parents would think?

When you know that your parents don’t want you to drink, smoke, or use drugs, is that enough to stop you from doing it?

The evidence points to yes: One source says that 3 out of 4 teens say parents are the biggest influence on their decision on whether or not to drink alcohol.

And another survey showed that teens who thought their parents would strongly disapprove of smoking were very unlikely to report smoking cigarettes in the past month.

Communication and Respect Are Key

Separating yourself from your parents is an important part of growing up; teens need to learn to think for themselves and make decisions on their own, after all. But that doesn’t mean parents can’t have some influence when it comes to their kids’ health.

But instead of simply disapproving, isn’t it more about how parents talk to their kids that makes them pay attention—or not? For example, a parent saying “Don’t do this because I said so” may have less impact than if they communicated in an open-minded and respectful way, even about unhealthy behaviors they disapprove of.

Tell Us

So back to our original question: If you know your parents disapprove of something, are you more or less likely to do it? Why?

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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