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Youth Substance Use: Information for Parents

Making a Decision about Substance Use

There are 2 sides to any behavior. There are the reasons people choose to do a certain behaviour and the reasons they may choose to change.

This activity can help someone struggling to make a decision about change, like stopping substance use. You can offer to do this activity with your child or ask them if they want to try it alone.

If you only talk to your child about why they should stop using substances, they will likely fight back just as hard to keep using. You may hear them say, “Yes, but…”.

Listen to why your child uses substances

If you do this activity with your child, it’s important to listen to why your child uses substances. Don’t interrupt or argue with them. This way your child will talk to you instead of fight with you.

You don’t have to agree with their reasons for using, but give your child a chance to talk about those reasons. Once your child has a chance to explain why they use, they may be more willing to look at things from a different point of view.

Activity instructions

  1. On one side of a piece of paper, ask your child to write down all the good things they can think of about using substances. Encourage them to list as many as they can. This may include fitting in with friends, like being high or drunk, or that it’s fun.
  2. On the other side of the page, ask them to list all the things they don't like about using a substance. This may include becoming addicted, substances cost a lot of money, parents and friends are worried when I get high or drunk.
  3. Now ask your child to look at what they wrote down. This activity shows that changing any behaviour is hard. It also shows your child that they are in control of their decision and that there are 2 sides to every decision. When they see more benefits to making a change, it will be easier to make the change.

Some people call this activity a “pros versus cons” list. You may find your child has a harder time making a list of the bad things. Let them know they don’t have to do this activity all at once. They can add more things to the list when they think of them.

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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