BEE HEARD: Speaking to youth about drugs and alcohol 

Photo Credit: Native Connections

First off, everyone is different and has different parenting styles, different aged youth who have different individual personalities and ideas. For that reason, in this article we will help provide information, tips, and suggestions.  

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were young?

We all have some “aha” moments in life and sometimes those realizations come with learned lessons. It’s important that as adults we try to be empathetic and understanding of our youth and how they are growing up. Try to remember when you were young and how conversations with adults were for you. Maybe you were nervous, curious, or maybe it wasn’t fun. We want our youth to be comfortable and feel safe enough to talk to us about drugs and alcohol. 

Why is it important to start the conversation with youth about drugs and alcohol?

Research has shown that youth are healthier and more successful when they have engaged and supportive adults in their lives. While it’s never too early to start talking with kids about substance use, misuse and abuse, the types of conversations you’re having will change as your child grows. 

How can you start the conversation? 

First, we need to be clear on what having a “conversation” means. A conversation is defined as an informal way of exchanging ideas, getting to know the other person’s thoughts, and sharing your own.  It’s important that, when we have these conversations with our youth, the dialogue is open and that we have the conversations more than once. 

It’s important to initiate a conversation with your youth and let them know you want to talk with them about drugs and alcohol.  Ask them what day and time is good for them and where they would feel most comfortable to have this talk. We want to create a “safe space” for them to express their feelings and thoughts about drugs. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Ask open ended questions such as “What would you do if there is alcohol at the party?” or “If a friend offered you drugs, what would you say?” 
  • Listen with an open mind.
  • Be present and honest. 
  • Avoid showing judgement. This is key if you want your youth to trust you with their true feelings and thoughts. 
  • Hear what they have to say now and not what they’ve said in the past. 
  • Use facts, not fear. Fear isn’t as effective as positive alternatives. 
  • Even if they use eye-rolls or heavy sighs, they are still listening to you, watching you and learning from you. Just let them know you care and that you are there if they have any questions or need suggestions on how to handle a situation. 

Create healthy habits for success. One way to create healthy habits is to help them create an Action Plan. Here are the stages of an action plan on how to avoid drugs and alcohol and create positive behaviors and outcomes. 

  • Give them the information and reasons to avoid drugs and alcohol. For example, maybe learn together about the different drugs that exist and think of reasons to avoid them, such as maybe graduating or having a better chance at a healthy life. 
  • Help them identify situations and “pressure points” that might make it difficult for them to avoid substances. Some examples might be parties, a tough day at school, boredom or maybe when something happens that makes them sad, mad or even happy. 
  • Help them find alternatives and connect what they love and care about to their decisions. For example, if they are at a party and their friends are pressuring them to drink, maybe they can tell their friends they can’t because they want to be on their game for basketball practice or for a test coming up. Another good way to help them is to create a “code” word or symbol they can text you or a trusted adult to come pick them up. The parent or trusted adult could text them back “Come home right now, I’m coming to pick you up.” 
  • Help them practice this plan and know that they will make mistakes. When they make mistakes, you can help them identify how to learn from those mistakes and share ideas of how to keep going forward. 

At the end of the day, we want nothing but the best for the youth in our lives. We can help by encouraging and supporting them. For more information, please contact Precious Collins with the Native Connections Program at 970-563-2487. We have handouts we can mail to you with suggestions and tips on how to talk to your youth ages 9 – 20 years of age. 

The Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division is also available to help aid these conversations with your youth if desired. Or you can check out the Forward Together Colorado webpage at for tips and resources for parents and for youth. Remember it’s never too early or too late to have these conversations with the youth in your life. 

Want to help and be a part of the change?

Looking for community members and youth to join the Prevention Coalition tasked to reduce youth substance usage, eliminate mental health stigma, and start the discussion around suicide and prevention. 

Upcoming Prevention Coalition Meetings: We are going virtual! For more information please contact Precious Collins, Native Connections Program Coordinator for more information 970-563-2487. 

Upcoming Training: FREE online Suicide Prevention Training-Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) for Southern Ute tribal employees, and Southern Ute tribal members. Let’s all learn the warning signs and what to do if someone is experiencing a crisis. Please contact Precious Collins at 970-563-2487 or email to sign up.

Upcoming Community Events: The Southern Ute Native Connections Program will be hosting monthly “Acting All Some How Show” via Zoom. These shows will have guest speakers, both locally and nationally and we will be focusing on mental wellness and substance use prevention. Please contact use at 970-563-2487 to sign up for our email notifications.


  • Southern Ute Health Center: Behavioral Health Division 69 Capote Drive, Ignacio, CO 970-563-4581. For local Native Americans. We are here to support mental health, substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery. Please call to schedule an appointment to talk to someone.  
  • Southern Ute Division of Social Services: 116 Capote Drive, Ignacio, CO 970-563-2331 for local Native Americans needing assistance with child welfare needs and family support. 
  • Southern Ute Police Department: Anonymous Tip Hotline Do you have information about a crime? Please call 970-563-4999. This “Tip Line” was designed to allow you the ability to provide law enforcement with information, anonymously if need be, regarding criminal, drug, or suspicious activity. The “Tip Line” is monitored around the clock by SUPD Investigators, but it DOES NOT replace 9-1-1 or the non-emergency police number (970) 563-4401.
  • St. Ignatius Catholic Church: Pastor Cesar Arras, 14826 CO-172, Ignacio, CO 970-563-4241.
  • Ignacio Community Church: Pastor Randall Haynes 405 Browning Ave, Ignacio, CO (currently located inside ELHI) 970-759-3633 
  • Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners: Believes that every child and youth at risk of suicide should have access to the mental health treatment they need. We match children and youth at risk for suicide with licensed therapists in their communities, 720-962-0706.
  • Women’s Resource Center: Creates personal, social, and professional growth opportunities for all women in La Plata County, 970-247-1242.


  • 24/7 Axis Crisis Line – SW Colorado: 970-247-5245 or Text 741741
  • Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255. You’ll immediately be put in contact with a trained counselor, ready to text with you about anything.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Has both an online chat and a 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one.
  • The Trevor Project: Which seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386.
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