1. Do your homework about drugs
Make sure you understand enough about drugs, including why your child might experiment with them, so you can talk to your child in an informed way. Understanding the facts about drugs will also help you keep calm in a crisis.
Get your information from reliable, credible sources such as the drugs website FRANK.
2. Pick a good time
Don’t do it before they rush off to school. Or, if they are using drugs, don’t confront them when they’re high on drugs.
3. Take opportunities to talk as they arise
It may help to do it when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news. Mealtimes can also be a good forum for discussion.
4. Let them know your values and boundaries
It’s important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking. Be clear about your opinions on drugs so that they know your boundaries.
5. It’s never too early to talk about drugs
It’s a good idea to start talking about the issue before they start experimenting with drugs. Make them feel strong and independent enough to be able to say no.
6. Avoid scare tactics
Your teenage children often know more people who take drugs than you do, so there’s no point in saying, “Smoking cannabis will kill you”. But if you point out that cannabis can cause mental health problems and make people forgetful and unmotivated, that will seem realistic to them and be more of a deterrent.
7. Know their friends
Peer pressure is the single most powerful factor in determining whether or not your child will take drugs. Get to know their friends. Invite them to the house and take an interest in what’s going on in their lives. If you have good reason to think your child’s friends are involved in drugs, you may need to support your child to find a new circle of friends.
8. Let them know you’re always there for them
That way they can be honest with you about what they’re up to and they won't just tell you what they think you want to hear.
9. Listen as well as talk
Talking to teenagers can be hard. When you're discussing drugs, don’t preach or give a speech and don’t make assumptions about what they know or do. Let your child tell you about his or her experiences. It’s often easier not to talk face-to-face, but to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you’re driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food.
Don’t be provoked or put off talking if they argue, get embarrassed or storm off. Parents’ opinions matter to their children. Revisit the subject when they’ve calmed down.
11. Make sure they know they are 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. Be sure they know you support them, but emphasise that it's up to them to make positive decisions.
12. Be realistic
It’s common for teenagers to experiment with drugs. Remember that only a small proportion of those who experiment will develop a drug problem.
13. Don’t panic
If you find out that your child has tried drugs, your first reaction may be anger or panic. Wait until you're calm before discussing it with them, and do so in a way that shows your love and concern rather than anger.
Getting help for drugs
If your child is using drugs and you are worried, find out about the help available in Drugs: where to get help.
Get support for yourself
If your child has drug problems, get support for yourself. Lots of organisations offer support to parents and carers, including: