Learn how to support your child’s well being in challenging times.
The Parent Connection video conversations provide valuable insights into youth, substances, risk, and protective factors, and suggestions on what we as parents and adult allies can do to help our kids find healthy ways to manage their feelings when they are faced with challenges, including dealing with life in a pandemic.
Our chats with the experts provide you with information to help you:
- Start an ongoing dialogue with your family, including tips on how to help your child make healthy decisions
- Understand vaping and its popularity with kids
- Recognize substance use risk factors and how to help your child develop resilience, within the context of COVID 19,
- Know the signs that your kid may be using alcohol and drugs to self-medicate and what to do next.
Youth and Mental Wellbeing
A conversation with Dr. Abby Goldstein
Dr. Abby Goldstein shares what parents can do to support the mental wellbeing of their kids, especially within the context of this new reality.
- The links between mental health issues and substance use
- Whether alcohol and cannabis use by young people has increased during the pandemic and why?
- Risk factors and protective factors
- How to recognize if kids have begun to use substances
- Some practical and effective ways for parents to intervene
- When to begin a dialogue about drugs with your kids
Dr. Abby Goldstein is a clinical psychologist, Associate Professor of Clinical and Counselling Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in the Psychology of Emerging Adulthood. She is also a member of Drug Free Kids' Advisory Council.
Dr. Goldstein's work examines factors that contribute to alcohol and cannabis use in adolescence and young adulthood, focusing on risk and protective factors to inform prevention and intervention. Dr. Goldstein is passionate about helping parents and youth have developmentally-appropriate conversations about alcohol and cannabis use to promote healthy decision-making and reduce alcohol- and cannabis-related harms. Dr. Goldstein has a private practice in Toronto where she sees adolescents and adults.
Cannabis and Youth
Many kids think cannabis is safer to consume than alcohol. We learn more about how kids are using cannabis and whether they are consuming more during COVID and we get some extremely helpful insights into why some kids decide to turn cannabis to cope with stress and anxiety.
A conversation with Robert Gabrys, PhD
Robert Gabrys from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) discusses the latest research regarding youth and cannabis
- Has cannabis use by youth increased and why?
- Which is less harmful to youth – ingesting or inhaling?
- Is the degree of a young person’s cannabis use important?
- What about stigma? Does a more compassionate approach with kids work?
Dr. Robert Gabrys is a research and policy analyst, and one of CCSA’s lead researchers on the cannabis file. He has been involved in monitoring cannabis research activities in Canada, synthesizing the evidence on the health impacts of cannabis, and in the development of cannabis public education.
A conversation with Dr. Claude Cyr, MD
Dr. Cyr explains how to recognize when a young person’s recreational use of cannabis might become self-medication to cope with mental issues, and what to do about it.
- What are the differences between recreational and medical use of cannabis?
- Explain self-medication with cannabis - are kids using cannabis to alleviate symptoms of stress or anxiety they may experience, especially during the pandemic?
- Are people using cannabis without a prescription to treat kids? Are there risks?
Dr. Cyr has been practicing family medicine in Quebec since 1996. His major clinical interests are in pain management, geriatrics, mental health, and the use of cannabinoid-based medicines in palliative and cancer care. He is a Faculty Lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University and an Associate Researcher for the Quebec Cannabis Registry, the world’s first research database on the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Dr. Cyr is the founder of Doctors for Responsible Access, an association of medical cannabis practitioners whose mission was to support responsible access to cannabis in light of legalization in Canada. He is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Canadian Consortium for the Investigations of Cannabinoids and a member of Drug Free Kids Canada’s Advisory Council.
Learn how to talk about cannabis with your kids! Get more evidence-based information about cannabis along with some great practical tools to help you start the cannabis conversation with your kids!
Click on the image to download the Cannabis Talk Kit.
Printed copies are also available - Click here to order a copy of The DFK Cannabis Talk Kit with an insert on edibles.
Please note:*After October 31st, shipping and handling charges will apply.
Perspectives on dependency and resilience
Get some interesting perspectives on which kids might be more susceptible to dependence, along with great tips on how to help our kids develop resilience to stress.
A conversation with Dr. John Sader
We speak with Dr. John Sader, a family physician specializing in substance use disorders and addiction about the personality traits that might indicate a child's predisposition to using drugs problematically.
- Perspectives on dependence and addiction - what is it?
- What kinds of behaviours should parents watch out for and when do kids manifest these risk factors?
- How can parents help their kids reach their potential by turning towards their passions?
- How does this build protective factors like resilience that can help their kids?
Dr. Sader is a family doctor with a degree in Human Genetics and who further specialized in Addiction Medicine and has been working in the field of dependency for the past 30 years. In his practice, he sees people suffering from Substance Use Disorders, many of whom also have co-morbid psychiatric disorders, as well as patients with Process Disorders similar to dependencies such as gambling, gaming, emotional dependency, and eating disorders.
A conversation with Dr. Christine Wekerle
DFK Advisory Council member Dr. Christine Wekerle discusses how parents can help their kids develop resilience during stressful times like the COVID 19 pandemic.
- What are young people telling us about their risks during COVID?
- What seems to be part of youth resilience?
- What are tips for parents around youth substance use?
Dr. Wekerle is an Associate Professor in Pediatrics and an Associate Member of the Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University. She obtained her Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology) in 1995 from The University of Western Ontario, an American and Canadian Psychological Association accredited program, and conducted her accredited internship at McMaster, in Pediatrics. She is Editor-in-Chief of the premier international journal, Child Abuse & Neglect, and founding editor of the open-access journal, International Journal of Child and Adolescent Resilience.
Dr. Wekerle has been an active scientist, publishing in peer-reviewed journals since 1987. Her research focuses on youth who have had adverse childhood experiences and their current mental health and resilience. Dr. Wekerle and her team have developed a youth resilience app, JoyPop TM to support day-to-day resilient functioning.
Vaping and Youth
Vaping's popularity amongst youth is increasing - one in 10 kids have consumed nicotine or cannabis using a vaping device. What are the risks to a young person's health?
A conversation with Dr. David Hammond
We speak with David Hammond, Ph.D. about vaping and its appeal to young people - as well as the potentially serious health risks of vaping substances.
- What are the risks of vaping for youth?
- Kids may be hearing that vaping is safer than smoking – is it?
- Are the risks for young people during COVID 19 increased?
- Should parents be concerned about their kids’ vaping? Why?
- What about vaping cannabis?
- What suggestions do you have for parents whose teens are vaping regularly?
David Hammond is a Professor (tenured) and CIHR Applied Chair in Public Health in the School of Public Health & Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. He is also a member of Drug Free Kids Canada's Advisory Council.
Dr. Hammond’s research focuses on population-level interventions to reduce chronic disease, primarily in the areas of tobacco control, obesity prevention, and substance use policy. Dr. Hammond has served as an Advisor to the World Health Organization, as well as regulatory agencies and governments around the world on tobacco control policy. Dr. Hammond has also served as an Expert Witness on behalf of governments around the world in litigation launched by the tobacco industry. Dr. Hammond’s work has been recognized by awards from the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the World Health Organization.
Understand the issues surrounding vaping, and knowing its potential health effects will help you engage in meaningful conversations with your child.
Download the Youth and Vaping brochure here.
Youth and mental wellness during very stressful times
What can we do to support our children's mental wellness during these challenging times?
A conversation with Dr. Jacqueline Smith
Families are going through significant challenges during this pandemic and many parents are concerned about the mental health of their kids. It's important to be able to recognize the signs of stress and to find ways to engage in meaningful and positive family connections that will support the mental wellness of youth.
- Recognizing stress in your kids.
- Coping with stress and anxiety in challenging times.
- When do we start talking to kids about drugs?
- Is there a difference between “normal” teenage behaviours and symptoms of drug use
- How do we tell?
- What are risk factors parents can be aware of?
- What are the protective factors that parents can help their kids develop?
- At what point do we seek help from a professional?
Dr. Jacqueline Smith is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Mental Health & Wellness in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Calgary. She is an educator, graduate student supervisor, and published researcher within her field of study that addresses addiction and mental health across the life span. In addition to her academic responsibilities, Jacqueline is a family counsellor, trauma (EMDR) therapist, and mindfulness practitioner with a private practice that focuses on addiction and family wellness.
Jacqueline is currently serving as President of the Canadian Chapter of the International Nurses Society of Addiction. She is a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Education, the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, and a member of the Advisory Committee for Drug Free Kids Canada.
Youth Mental Wellness and COVID19
Chantal Vallerand speaks with Sarah Hallett from the Pine River Institute about how to help our kids cope with stress and anxiety without turning to substances.
Looking for more resources about youth and substance use? Check out the DFK Resources for Parents page.