The Staten Island YMCA Counseling Service is here to support families struggling with substance abuse and other challenges. If you’re worried about a member of your family, please contact us at 718-948-3232 (South Shore) or 718-981-4382 (North Shore).

Below you’ll find some of the helpful tools and resources we’ve compiled for parents and guardians.

Five Tips for Talking with Teens about Alcohol & Drugs

According to the CDC, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are substances most commonly used by adolescents. By 12th grade, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol. Teen substance use can impact the growth and development of teens and contribute to high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex and dangerous driving.


Conversation Goals: Talking with Teens About Alcohol and Other Drugs

1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug use.

2. Show you care about your teen’s health, wellness, and success.

3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs.

4. Show you’re paying attention and you will discourage risky behaviors.

5. Build your teen’s skills and strategies for avoiding drinking and drug use.


Additional resources

How to Spot Signs of Marijuana Use
  • Changes in friends, behavior, mood, or personality
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Decreased attendance in school
  • Changes in academic or work performance

Additional resources

Five Simple Tips for Safely Storing Medicinal Marijuana

One-third of teenagers who live in states with medical marijuana laws get their marijuana from other people's prescriptions.


Five simple tips to safe storage at home and on-the-go:

  • Choose a safe spot
  • Lock the safety cap
  • Put medicines away
  • Remind guests to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicine in them up and away and out of sight when they are in your home.
  • While traveling, find a safe storage place that is out of sight and reach of young children, like a high cabinet. If you’re in a hotel room, try the passcode-protected room safe for safe storage.


Additional resources:

Warning Signs of Emotional, Mental, or Behavioral Disorders in Teens

According to, a national and international literature review found that an average of 17 percent of young people experience an emotional, mental, or behavioral disorder. 


Warning Signs 

  • Marked decline in school performance 

  • Poor grades in school despite trying very hard 

  • Severe worry or anxiety, as shown by regular refusal to go to school, go to sleep or take part in activities that are normal for the child's age 

  • Frequent physical complaints 

  • Marked changes in sleeping and/or eating habits 

  • Extreme difficulties in concentrating that get in the way at school or at home 

  • Sexual acting out 

  • Depression shown by sustained, prolonged negative mood and attitude, often accompanied by poor appetite, difficulty sleeping or thoughts of death 

  • Severe mood swings 

  • Strong worries or anxieties that get in the way of daily life, such as at school or socializing 

  • Repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs 

How to Talk With Your Kids about Difficult World Events

Boys (82%) and girls (76%) said they valued their parents' opinions over their friends' when it came to serious decisions. 


Parent and child connectedness correlates to a number of health implications. Close and positive family bonds that feature open communication help keep kids healthy and avoid violence and substance use behavior. 


How To Talk To Your Kids About Difficult World Events

1) Wait for the right moment. 

2) Find out what they know. 

3) Create a safe space for discussion. 

4) Provide context and perspective. 

5) Address their curiosity. 

Additional resources: 

7 Powerful Tips for Great Parent-Child Communication

A new study has found that around 70 percent of parents say they “struggle to communicate meaningfully” with their kids.  


Two thousand parents were interviewed to see how they had time for communication with their kids: 40% of parents said general conversations with their kids only lasted ten minutes and 36% of parents point to their schedule as being a culprit of not communicating enough with their kids. 

7 Powerful Tips for Great Parent-Child Communication

1) Talk during the in-betweens. 

2) Create talking rituals. 

3) Be a person (respond to your child as a person not just their parent). 

4) Encourage emotional literacy. 

5) Details matter. 

6) You count, too (share about your day with your kids). 

7) Give advice. 


Additional resources: 

10 Tips for Building a Trusting Relationship With Your Teen

Teens who felt more alienated and, therefore, lost trust in their mothers (more so than fathers) were more likely to have high levels of anxiety by 12th grade. 


Youth that felt less trust in their parents were more likely to suffer emotional problems. In preteens, communication fell as much as four times less then earlier years. Teens that lost trust in their mother’s by 12th grade were more likely to have anxiety.  


Ten Tips To Help Parents Build A Trusting Relationship With Their Teen


1) Research the effects of adolescence in teens. 

2) Find common interests and fun things to do together. 

3) Listen, really listen and ask clarifying questions. 

4) Let go, forgive, move on. 

5) Share your mistakes. 

6) Parents don’t spy. 

7) Be consistent, keep your promises. 

8) Admit when you make a mistake. 

9) Talk about your experience. 

10) Start building trust early in their life. 


Additional resources: