The word “Drugs” can be really scary for parents – When do I start talking to my child about drugs? What drugs do I talk about?
We live in a drug taking society which means that we need to understand and be aware that our children are going to come across drugs at some stage. The first thing to remember is that our children, in the majority of cases, will come into contact with legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and medicines. The secret is to get yourself as much correct information as you can. Talking about legal drugs to your children is a great first step to opening up communication about the subject without getting into the so-called scary stuff!
Don’t panic, you’re not the first parent to worry about whether you know enough or whether your child knows more than you. It’s okay to say “I’m not sure but I’ll find out for you”. With all of our discussions, communication is the most important part of the parent/child relationship and never more so than discussing drugs. If you have good communication, your child is less likely to go looking for information elsewhere. As a parent it’s important for you to learn the correct facts about drugs and luckily there are many really good resources on the internet, some of which we have put up on our site cacoaching.ie.
Why is it important for parents to talk about drugs with their children?
- No Family is immune from the impact of drugs. Be they legal or illegal drugs, many families will have some dealings with drugs.
- Children know more about drugs than we think. They come across drug use in the home from a very early age. This is when it’s a great opportunity to open up the discussion around drugs.
- Generally society will use scare tactics to “frighten” people into doing or not doing what someone wants. Drug use is a prime example of this.
- Ultimately if you have a child who does get into difficulty with drugs or is struggling to not give into peer pressure, they will need you to be there for them.
When should parents start the drug conversation?
- This very much depends on the parent and how comfortable/knowledgeable they are about the drug(s) in question.
- Children will be aware of legal drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and medication. This is a great opportunity for parents to begin the conversation around safe use of legal drugs and the law. It does not have to be significantly in depth but you can discuss the effects of having too much of a certain drug and what it can do to you.
- Use “teachable moments”. If you have to give your child some medication, see an anti-smoking advert on tv or even if you’re not drinking at a family event, you can use this opportunity to discuss the reasons for these.
What about the preteens?
- Find out what they know. You can discuss with you preteen what drugs they have heard about and where they heard them from. It’s a good opportunity then for you to get the information for yourself and chat to them about what you feel they need to know.
- Discuss the difference between legal and illegal drugs.
- Provide reassurance. As your child gets closer to second level school, reassure them that if they ever come across or feel pressure to take any drugs, they can always come to you and you will help them deal with it.
- Practice role playing situations. With your child you can practice how they might say no or give them alternatives to being in those situations like, “I have to be home at X time”, “I got in trouble the last time, I can’t afford to get in trouble again”.
And then the teens?
- It’s really important to not be judgemental if your child comes to you to talk about drugs.
- Don’t dismiss what they believe as ridiculous. They came to you with, which is a huge bonus, sit and discuss with them where they got their information and then discuss the facts that you know.
- Don’t assume that your child has tried drugs/will never try drugs. Both of these issues can bring their own pitfalls. Some parents feel that it is a good idea to drug test their child with a home testing kit bought from a pharmacy. As I have said to many parents, you need to be prepared to deal with either outcome. If it is a negative result, you have effectively told your child that you don’t believe/trust them while if it’s a positive result, what will you do then? Many parents don’t think through the consequences of carrying out these tests and by communicating with your child, there is more of a chance that you can work together to find a solution.
- Don’t ignore your gut feeling. If you have concerns, speak to your child.
- If you child does come to you with a problem or you find out that your child is taking drugs, don’t overreact. What your child needs is to be supported to stop. First things first, let them know you’re there for them and that you will help them get through whatever the situation is for them. Then depending on how severe the situation, you can contact your doctor for a referral to local drug services. You can also find out what services are available in your local area that could be more appropriate to your child’s needs.
- While it’s important to support your child, you must also keep yourself and your family safe. If you’re concerned about your child’s behaviour while they are under the influence, it might be worth speaking to your local community gardai about the situation and as for their advice if there is violence.
Where can parent get more information?
There are some wonderful resources out there. Many parenting drug awareness programmes offered through schools and youth/parent programmes. There are also some excellent sites with some good information to support parents and teens through a very difficult time. A selection of these we have linked below.
Drug info - FRANK