Advice for parents

Many people worry about their children becoming involved with drugs. They feel they don’t know enough about drugs to help prevent them from coming to harm. Sorting out fact from fiction is often difficult.

There are many stories in the media about young people drinking heavily or taking drugs leading to addiction, crime and death. It is important to remember the following facts:

  • More young people experience problems due to alcohol than from taking drugs.
  • Most young people do not use drugs and, of those that do, most soon stop.
  • Of those who do try illegal drugs, most do not suffer any long-term harm to their health.
  • Those who heavily drink alcohol in their teenage years are more likely to develop problems with drugs later in life.

However, there are serious physical and mental health risks associated with drug use. The legal risks and impacts can also be significant.

Parents often don’t understand why young people might want to try drugs. Many young people don’t see drug taking as a big issue. Young people may be attracted to drugs in the same way that they are attracted to alcohol: because they enjoy the effects; it’s what their friends do; they are bored; drugs may be easily available. There could be underlying worries or problems that could lead to young people taking drugs, but there are as many reasons as there are young people.

Equipping yourself with the basic facts about drugs and alcohol will prepare you for one of the most important things you can do… talking with your family. And it is never too early, or too late, to start.

Talking to children and young people about drugs and alcohol may not be easy; however it is important to understand each other’s views. Do not accuse. Parents and children can both gain from having calm discussions. Also, remember this leaflet is very general. Every family is different, and the way you relate to your child is special to you.

Discussing drugs and alcohol with children

Many parents feel that it is too early to talk to seven and eight year olds, or even younger, about drugs and alcohol. But there are benefits and these include:

  • It helps to make it a subject they can raise.
  • It makes sure the information they have is accurate.
  • They will know what your views are and will understand why you hold them (and vice versa).
  • If they get into difficulties, they are more likely to talk to you about it.

Here are some suggestions for bringing up the subject with your child (teaching moments):

  • When you give your child some medicine, make sure
    they know that they should only take medicine if it is given to them by a responsible adult such as you or a trusted member of the family, and that all drugs, including medicines, have risks.
  • If drugs are mentioned on TV or in the newspapers, use the opportunity to have a discussion. Ask what they know about drugs and the dangers.

Discussing drugs and alcohol with young people

Build on the open and supportive approach suggested for children. If you can keep the discussion going, it will help you as your child gets older.

Remember the following:

  • Before you discuss drugs and alcohol, decide what you want to say.
  • Don’t feel like you have to be an expert.
  • Think about the best way of getting your message across.
  • Discuss the issue, don’t lecture.
  • Try to put yourself in their shoes.
  • Always try to make sure they understand that it is their health and welfare you are interested in, and that you are there to help and support them.
  • Don’t feel it all has to be said in one conversation.
  • Think about how you will respond if asked about your own
There are signs that might indicate there is a problem, like changes to their behaviour, or in friends or interests, staying out late, or not coming home. The key is your knowledge
of your own child. You know when something is wrong. But don’t jump to conclusions; they may be the wrong ones. However difficult, try to remain calm.
It will help if you have some knowledge and understanding of the drug they might be using, their effects and potential risks.
There is information within this leaflet and links to other sources of help and advice.

Focus on your child, not on the drug

The drug may be part of a lifestyle. Try to understand your child’s world and motivations. This will help you to provide the right support for them.

Don’t lecture them

It is important to keep the conversation open, so try to avoid shutting it down.

Don’t blame yourself

Many young people experiment with drugs. Just because your child is using them, it does not mean you have failed as a parent. Blaming yourself won’t help.

Be supportive

Your child may be experimenting, or they may be seriously involved. They need your support to get through. So it is important to keep a positive attitude and be there for them.

Get help for your child

If you think the issue is serious, there is help available. Don’t panic! You can contact the FRANK helpline on 0300 123 6600 or go to the website for expert and impartial advice. It can also assist in finding local services.

Get help and support for yourself

You will have worries and concerns yourself. So talk to your family and friends whenever possible and make sure you have support.