Advice To Parents

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Advice to Parents & Carers on how to talk to young people about drugs and alcohol

It may be difficult to broach the subject, but it's easier if you remember to:

Be prepared

Find out about drugs - the facts not the myths. Your child is more likely to listen - and talk - if she or he thinks you know what you are talking about.

Be calm

Easier said than done but try not to shout or let the discussion become an argument. A parent's natural reaction on finding out their child is using drugs is to panic or get angry. Don't talk to them while you're in a state. Walk away. Try and get calm and allow yourself some thinking time. Decide what you want to say in advance. This will help stop the conversation spiralling out of control.

Be open

Listen to what your child has to say. Don't react to bad language or shocking stories.

Keep it broad

Don't just focus on the drug use or their behaviour, look at the wider context - Ask your child about what's going on in their world? Really listen to what they're saying, paying particular attention to their feelings. And don't be afraid to ask them to clarify things - the more you understand, the easier it will be for both of you to move forward.

Avoid asking ‘Why?'

Why? Because it's the worst thing you can say to a child as it immediately puts them on the defensive. Also, they may not really know why they started taking drugs or are thinking about taking them. Gently ask questions beginning How, When, What, Where, as these will help the conversation flow and you won't simply get a Yes or No answer.

Get someone to help you – if you think it will help 

Having someone else in the room who your child likes and respects can stop the conversation escalating into a row or stand-off. You could ask a grandparent, friend or favourite uncle or aunt to be there for you. You may even want to leave some books or leaflets about drugs lying around the house.

Don't get hung up on blame

 If your child takes drugs it's NOT your fault! Young people take drugs for all sorts of reasons. And above all, it's their choice to take drugs. You can't make those choices for them. But you can keep the channels of communication open. Blame isn't useful for anything. It won't even make you feel better.

Assumptions can be dangerous

Children take drugs for different reasons. Try and get them to explain in their own words what's going on for them, and treat what they say seriously. It could be that they want to rebel, they're experimenting or that drugs are readily available - not necessarily that they're having problems at school, for example.

Remember the three Rs – reassure, reassure, reassure

It's important for them to know that you'll be there for them – from answering simple questions to helping them through difficult times.