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Youth Substance Use: Information for Parents

Tips for Talking to Youth about Substance Use

Talking with youth about substance use can be hard. You may not know where to start or be afraid that talking about it will make your child want to try it. You may feel like you don’t know much about substance use or that your child’s choices are out of your control. It’s normal to have these thoughts and not know what to do.

Take time to listen

Work on listening to your child. Make sure your child knows that you care about what they have to say. The more time you take to listen, the more likely your child will talk to you about:

  • their worries
  • who they spend time with
  • what they like to do
  • what’s important to them

Learn about substance use

Educate yourself. Learn the facts about alcohol and other substances. Share this information with your child so you both have the same information.

Set guidelines

Set guidelines for behaviour. Make it clear to your child that there are consequences for both good and bad behaviour.

See life through their eyes

Look at life through your child’s eyes. Help them understand why people behave certain ways in ads, on TV, and on the internet. Use examples from the media as a way to talk to them about substance use and making healthy choices.

Encourage questions

Let your child know they can ask questions. Young people often have lots of questions, but they may not ask because they don’t want to look silly or make you worry. When your child doesn’t ask questions, they are more likely to put themselves in social situations where that they are unsure about or feel like they can’t say no to.

Scaring doesn’t work

When you talk with your child, try not to scare them. Putting fear into your child doesn’t work well. For example, some parents may be tempted to tell their child that everyone who uses ecstasy will get addicted to it. You may think that scaring your child will prevent them from trying it. But, if your child knows people who use ecstasy who aren’t addicted, they may not trust anything you say about substance use.

Don’t judge

When you answer questions, try not to judge. Talk about facts (not judgments) so your child learns to trust you. This way they are more likely to talk to you about issues like sex and pressure to drink alcohol and use other substances.

Let your child know it’s normal to have problems and make mistakes.

Share stories from your past

Share your own stories. You may have lessons from your past that you can share with your child. Hearing how you dealt with pressures can help them deal with their own.

Model healthy behaviour

If you’re careful about how you use alcohol, tobacco, and other substances, your child will take your advice more seriously. Remember, your children look up to you. If they see you making healthy choices, they are likely to make healthy choices too.

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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