Why your child may use drugs or alcohol
It is not uncommon for young people to experiment with drugs and alcohol at some point. Smoking, drinking and trying drugs are common ways to do this. However, substance misuse can be dangerous to young people’s health and wellbeing. All drugs have the potential to cause harm.
Sometimes, young people may use drugs or alcohol to deal with difficult emotions or situations in their life. If you are worried about your child’s use of drugs or alcohol and you think they may be using substances to manage a mental health difficulty, please speak to your GP or a professional.
Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol
It can be difficult to talk to your child about their use of drugs and alcohol. Having open conversations helps the young person make informed decisions about their substance use. How to talk to someone about their drug use.
- Do not panic
If you find out your child has tried drugs, your first reaction may be anger or panic. Wait until you're calm before discussing it with them, and show them love and concern rather than anger.
- Do your homework about drugs
Make sure you know enough about drugs to talk to your child in an informed way. The national drugs website FRANK is a reliable source of information.
- Pick a good time
Do not try to talk to your child about drugs when they're in a rush – for example before they leave for school. If they're using drugs, do not confront them when they're high. It may be easier to talk to your child about drugs when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news. Meal times can also be a good time for chatting. It's often easier to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you're driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food.
- Let them know your values
It's important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking. Be clear about your opinions on drugs and let them know your boundaries. For example, you may say that you do not want any drugs in the house.
- Avoid scare tactics
Teenagers often know more about drugs than you do, so there's no point in saying, "smoking cannabis will kill you". Pointing out that cannabis can cause mental health problems, especially if you start smoking it in your teens, may be more of a deterrent.
- Know your child's friends
If you have good reason to think your child's friends are involved in drugs, it is even more important that you teach them how to effectively say ‘no’ and advocate for themselves. You may need to support your child to distance themselves from these friends and find new ones. This could be difficult for your child and it will be really important to let them know that you understand that it’s hard to lose friendships, even if it is for good reasons.
- Let them know you're always there for them
If your child knows you're there for them whatever, they're more likely to be honest with you. They are also less likely just to tell you what they think you want to hear.
- Listen as well as talk
Do not preach or make assumptions about what your child does. Let them tell you about their experiences, and try to listen without judging.
- Do not give up
Do not be put off talking if your child argues, gets embarrassed or storms off. Parents' opinions matter to their children. Go back to the subject when they're calmer.
- Let them be responsible for their actions
You're trying to help your child make good choices in life about drugs. But only they can say no to drugs. Make sure they know you support them, but that it's up to them to make positive decisions.
- Be realistic
Lots of teenagers experiment with drugs. But only a small number of those who experiment will develop a drug problem.