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Youth Substance Use: Information for Parents

Tips to Help You Connect With Your Child

Talking to youth about their substance use can be challenging. If you’re not prepared, you may end up arguing instead. This can happen when you try to get your child to see your point of view. If your child feels you’re not listening to what they say, they may not pay attention to what you say.

Although it might be hard, don’t let your feelings get in the way. You could say: “I’m not an expert so I don’t know if there is a problem or not. You can decide this for yourself or with a counsellor. I’m worried about you so I’ve been learning everything I can about problems related to substance use. And you’re right, not everyone who uses substances has a problem. But I’ve learned enough that I’m worried there may be one. Can we talk?”

The following tips may help you connect with your child:

  • When you talk about your child’s substance use, use calm words and stay neutral. Don’t judge.
  • Talk about the risks of using substances. But also let your child know that you understand they use substances because they think it’s fun or it helps them relax.
  • Tell your child you’re concerned by saying things like “When you come home drunk, I feel…” or “When I know you’ve been using drugs, I worry that you…”.
  • Write them a note, make a video, or voice recording to let your child know how their substance use affects you. This can be helpful if you find it hard to talk directly to your child or worry you won’t be able to remember to say everything you want to tell them.
  • Talk about what has happened. Avoid talking about things that you don’t know are true or that you’ve only heard about. Say how this made you feel. Give details like the date, place, and time to help you stick with facts.
  • Be honest and respectful. Don’t spy on your child or search their room. If you do, your child will think you’re the problem and not substance use. The only time it’s okay to search your child’s things is when there is risk of suicide.
  • Be clear about rules and the outcome (consequences) if rules are broken. Follow through with consequences.
  • Talk to your child when they’re not under the influence of substances and when you’re calm. If you’re angry, tell your child how you feel and set a different time to talk. Say things like “I’m angry at you right now, and I need some time to calm down. Can we talk about this in the morning?”
  • 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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