How to Talk to Your Kids about Drugs and Alcohol

A few months ago I facilitated a presentation out in the community about How to Talk to Your Kids about Drugs and Alcohol. Talking about drugs and alcohol to your kids can seem overwhelming, where do you even start?  I am not a parent and so the following are some suggestions from what I have learned.

Here are some tips from the presentation:

#1. Approach the conversation with curiosity and interest, rather than accusation and fear.

Remember that some experimentation is normal and a part of development – you and your child need to discuss what that means and where to draw the line.   Ask your child what he/she knows about drugs and alcohol and what their opinion is.

#2. Focus on your child’s knowledge of drugs and alcohol.

Ask your child about their concerns regarding drugs and alcohol.  Discuss and address those issues.  Let your child know he/she can be open and honest with you.  Do not be scared of these conversations!!! You are building he relationship between your child and you by creating a space for difficult topics should they arise.  You are setting the foundation for your child to address any concerns or issues they may have in the future if you create a safe and open space.

#3. Be informed.

You do not need to be an expert on drugs and alcohol, but you should be informed.  You should also be knowledgeable about what it is like to be a teen in today’s culture. Try and be informed about the language youth use, where they get their information from (school, social media, friends etc) and what issues they may be facing (peer pressure, stress, relationship, identity etc).  This will build empathy and help you to connect with your child.

#4. Create space for honesty, courage, and faith.

Be honest about what you know and don’t know.  Have the courage to start these discussions with your child.  Have faith that your child will make mistakes, but with a loving and supportive family your child will turn out alright.

#5. Know what doesn’t work with your child.

You know your child best and you know what approach doesn’t work with he/she.  Avoid criticism, shame-based lectures, and negative comments.  Focus on the behaviour that you would like to see rather than the behaviour you do not want to see.   Allow for some space for your child to express themselves and develop their own identity while maintaining clear and consistent boundaries.

#6. Stay calm.

Be firm and consistent while staying calm.  Take a break if things are becoming heated or you feel the conversation is going nowhere. You can always come back to it later when both your child and you are calm.  Remember that you are creating the foundation for future conversations with difficult subjects.

Relationship is key!

Ultimately, what I’ve learned is that the relationship is key!  Think about a time when you had a difficult conversation with a friend.  Did you take he/she out for a coffee, dinner, or go for a walk?  You most likely gave them your full attention.  This is the same for having a difficult conversation with your child. How many times have we been guilty of asking our loved ones how they are after a long day while we are busy washing the dishes or typing something up on our computers?  I know I am guilty of that.  Take a minute each day to stop everything you are doing and give your loved one your full attention to see how their day was.  It communicates you care and you are interested.  It’s a small thing you can do each day that add up and build relationship with either your child or loved on.  It’s also important to set time aside for quality time.  Quality time is important for any relationship, it’s a time for connection, not correction.

As parents, you are the experts and you have a wealth of knowledge and experience!

For more information on Drugs and Alcohol, you can visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health by clicking here.


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