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How to talk to your child about drugs - Healthy body

It can be difficult to talk about drugs with your kids. Use these tips to help you talk openly with your child.

1. Do not panic

If you find out your child has tried drugs, your first reaction may be anger or panic.

Wait until you're calm before discussing it with them, and show them love and concern rather than anger.

2. Do your homework about drugs

Make sure you know enough about drugs to talk to your child in an informed way.

The national drugs website FRANK is a reliable source of information.

3. Pick a good time

Do no try to talk to your child about drugs when they're in a rush – for example, before they leave for school. If they're using drugs, do not confront them when they're high.

It may be easier to talk to your child about drugs when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news. Mealtimes can also be a good time for chatting.

It's often easier to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you're driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food.

4. Let them know your values

It's important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking.

Be clear about your opinions on drugs and let them know your boundaries. For example, you may say that you do not want any drugs in the house.

5. Avoid scare tactics

Teenagers often know more about drugs than you do, so there's no point in saying, "Smoking cannabis will kill you". Pointing out that cannabis can cause mental health problems, especially if you start smoking it in your teens, may be more of a deterrent.

6. Know your child's friends

Get to know your child's friends. Invite them to your 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 new friends.

7. Let them know you're always there for them

If your child knows you're there for them whatever, they're more likely to be honest with you. They are also less likely to just tell you what they think you want to hear.

8. Listen as well as talk

Do not preach or make assumptions about what your child does. Let them tell you about their experiences, and try to listen without judging.

9. Do not give up

Do not be put off talking if your child argues, gets embarrassed or storms off. Parents' opinions matter to their children. Go back to the subject when they're calmer.

10. Let them be 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. 

Make sure they know you support them, but that it's up to them to make positive decisions.

11. Be realistic

Lots of teenagers experiment with drugs. But only a small number of those who experiment will develop a drug problem.

Help for your child

If your child is using drugs and you're worried, find out where to get help for drug addiction.

Support for yourself

If your child has drug problems, you need support too.

Read more advice for families of drug users.

Page last reviewed: 17 March 2020
Next review due: 17 March 2023