It is often hard to know where to start or how to approach the subject when it comes to talking about drugs and their use with your child. While it may seem hard, the best thing you can do is start talking.
One resource that can help is the National Drugs Campaign, run by the Commonwealth Department of Health. They have put together a range of information to help you talk to your child about drug use, possible effects and strategies to take when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
National Drugs Campaign’s top 10 tips
Be an active part of their lives
Spend time with your child. Take an interest in what interests them and establish a routine for doing things with them. Spending time as a family is important, like eating together every day. When they go out with their friends, don’t be afraid to ask where they’re going or which friends they’ll be with.
Listen to your child
Showing that you’re prepared and willing to listen to your child will help a lot. Encourage your child to feel comfortable about telling you their problems, and ask for their input on family decisions to show that you value their opinions. Try not to interrupt them or react in a way that will stop whatever you’re discussing.
Be a role model
When it comes to drugs there’s no such thing as ‘do as I say, not as I do’. If you take drugs yourself you can’t expect your kids to take your advice not to touch them. Your behaviour influences your child’s behaviour, particularly when it comes to alcohol or tobacco, or misuse of medications.
Be honest with them
You don’t have to know everything about drugs. While it’s important to be informed, you shouldn’t pretend to have the answers to every question. Be prepared to say ‘I don’t know but perhaps we can find out together’. If you’re honest and clear about where you stand, your child may find it easier to be honest with you.
Pick your moment
Make sure you pick the right time to discuss drugs with your kids. Look for natural opportunities as they arise. This might be when you’re all watching TV, or when they’re talking about someone at school or one of their friends.
When it comes to talking about drugs, being calm and rational is important, as well as not overreacting. Make sure not to ridicule or lecture, as this could make future discussions about drugs more difficult and make your child more resistant to talking to you at all.
It is difficult to solve a problem when you’re angry or in the middle of an argument. Try to see your child’s point of view while encouraging them to understand yours. If a confrontation does develop, stop the conversation and come back to it when everyone is calmer.
Once you’ve had a discussion about drugs it’s important to have another. The earlier you start talking to your child about drugs the better. Be willing to talk to your kids at any time.
Set clear boundaries
Generally children expect and appreciate some ground rules. By actively involving your child in setting the rules you can encourage them to take more responsibility for sticking to them. Once you’ve decided on these rules, enforce them, and let your kids know the consequences of breaking them.
Discuss ways your child will act if they find themselves in situations where drugs are present. For example, let them know that you’ll always collect them if they need you to, whatever the hour.
Make it absolutely clear that you would rather they didn’t put themselves in a situation where they are likely to be exposed to drugs in the first place.
Focus on the positives
Reward your child’s good behaviour. Praise them for the things they do well.. Encourage them to feel good about themselves and let them know that they deserve respect and should also respect themselves.