In general, most young people, especially those under 16, trust their parents and will respond to any information and support you offer. However, as teenagers get older the culture gap may widen and communication may be more difficult. This does not mean you should not try. Before you do talk to your child about drugs, make sure you have accurate, up-to-date information about different types of drugs (explore our A-Z of drugs or FAQs) and make the time to have the conversation.
It’s important to stay calm and open-minded. Getting too intense will put pressure on your child, so encourage a relaxed conversation, starting with questions about the ‘bigger picture’. Try to find out how things are going outside of home, with their friends, at school, etc. Make sure to ask questions that won’t result in one-word answers; this way, the conversation will be much more likely to flow. Listen to what your child says and try to ensure a two-way conversation.
If you’re sure there’s a problem and your child refuses to talk to you, try not to panic.
Although there are many stories in the media about drugs leading to addiction, crime and death, it is important to remember that:
- for most young people illegal drug taking is not a part of normal life;
- most people who do try drugs do not continue using them.
There are serious risks involved in drug use but most of those who try illegal drugs do not usually suffer any long-term harm to their health.
Remember that there are different reasons why people take drugs. For your child, it may be as simple as, ‘to have fun’. The drugs might make your child feel relaxed, sociable and full of energy, and this may be a phase that they are going through. It’s important to explain that some drugs are illegal and can affect their physical and mental health, and to let them know that while you may not approve, they can always talk to you about any worries they may have.
Alternatively, your child may be using drugs to escape pressure at school or at home, or because they are having difficulty in coping with stressful situations. Again, it’s important to talk calmly and get to the root of any problems, so that you can find a way to work through these problems together and help them manage these situations without drugs.
Research shows that where young people do develop a problem with drugs, the involvement and support of parents and families can make a big difference to the person’s health and their ability to deal with their drug habit.
Drugs services, counselling services, and self-help groups offer support to your child at any stage, whether or not they are ready to change their behaviour.
Help is also available to you as a parent or carer. Websites such as Adfam and Family Lives provide advice for parents and carers, and Netmums, for mums and dads, provides opportunities to chat with other parents when you have questions or are facing a challenge.