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Youth Substance Use: Information for Parents

Sharing Feelings

If you’re like most parents, you sometimes worry about how your child will handle growing up. You might wonder if there is anything you can do now to help your child make safer choices as a teenager.

Adults sometimes teach children not to talk about their feelings, without knowing it. When a child talks about being scared, mad, jealous, or lonely, an adult might say, “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “There’s no reason to be scared.” By the time they are preteens or teens, children may think that only their friends understand them. Children who can’t show their feelings in a healthy way will find other ways to cope with them. An older child might start to use alcohol or other substances as a way to ease the pain of holding their feelings in or not feeling understood.

Taking the time to listen to your child and talking about feelings is one of the best ways to stay connected to your child. By doing this, you create good communication habits that they will keep as a teen and an adult. As your child faces more grown-up challenges, they will know it’s okay to talk honestly about their feelings. They will also learn it’s okay to feel sad, confused, and afraid sometimes.

Children who feel safe talking about feelings with their parents feel more supported and can make better choices. When you take time to listen let your child know it’s ok to talk about their feelings, you build trust that will help them in the years to come.

Tips to Help You have a Trusting Relationship with Your Child

  • Take the time to listen when your child talks about their feelings.
  • Let your child do most of the talking. Your child will feel better knowing that you care enough to listen to their problems.
  • When your child talks about feelings that make you uncomfortable (such as sadness, anger), ask them why they feel that way.
  • Help your child understand that they aren’t the only one to have troubles. Think about problems you had when you were young and share them with your child.
  • Tell your child you believe in them and know they will always do their best.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. You don’t have to and can’t solve all of your child’s problems. But you can help them by listening and caring.
  • It’s healthy for the whole family when your child can talk openly about feelings. This way they don’t keep feelings inside.
  • When you listen, respect your child’s feelings and talk to them about how they feel. Your child will learn that it’s okay to have uncomfortable feelings and problems and understand that it’s normal.

More information

Alberta Health Services offers many addiction and mental health services to help you, your child, and your family, including:

  • information and prevention programs
  • group and family counseling
  • outpatient and residential treatment
  • the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Program (PChAD)

For more information or to find services near you, call Health Link at 811.

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