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Tips for Parents

Find the right words and keep talking

63% of teenagers 13 to 19 years old reported that they get their information on drugs from their parents and in the classroom. DFK attitudinal tracking survey 2020

Here are some simple tips to help you have effective conversations about substance use with your kids.

  • Take time to learn the facts about the underage age use of substances they may hear about every day – like cannabis, alcohol, and nicotine – as well as the non-medical use of medications and illegal drugs. Then have ongoing conversations with your child, (that are appropriate to their age) about the risks to their physical and mental health.
  • Establish guidelines for substance use in your family.  Let your younger children and teens know that drug and alcohol use is not accepted and explain why – your rules are there to keep them healthy and safe. Set limits with clear consequences for breaking the rules. Older teens and young adults may already be using substances, make sure they are aware of safe practices to reduce the harm that substances can cause.
  • Establish a “core values statement” for your family. Consider developing a family mission statement that reflects your family’s core values. This might be discussed and created during a family meeting or over a weekend meal together. Talking about what they stand for is particularly important at a time when teens are pressured daily by external influencers on issues like drugs, sex, violence, or vandalism.
  • Praise and reward good behaviour for compliance and enforce consequences for non-compliance.
  • Talk with your pre-teen or teen. While shopping or riding in the car, casually ask them how things are going at school, about their friends, what their plans are for the weekend, etc.
  • Don’t always focus on the negative outcomes of drug use – try and encourage more healthy behaviours, and talk about the positive possibilities of having a variety of choices and opportunities when they’re older.
  • Encourage their participation in doing the things they love — Engage your teen in creative after-school activities. Encourage their participation in supervised educational programs or a sports league.
  • Check-in with your teenager. Occasionally check-in to see how they are doing, emotionally and mentally, and help them feel safe by actively listening to what they are saying.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Invite them over for dinner or talk with them at your teen’s soccer practice, dance rehearsal, or other activities.
  • Stay in touch with the trusted adults your child knows (camp counsellors, coaches, employers, teachers). That will make it easier to ask and have them inform you if they’ve noticed any changes in your teen’s behaviour.
  • Spend time together as a family regularly and be involved in your kid’s lives. Create a bond with your child. This builds up connection and trust between you and your child so that when you have to set limits or enforce consequences, it’s less stressful.
  • Remind your child that you will always support them, no matter what.
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