4 Tips for Talking to Youth About Drugs
April 11, 2018. Article by: Government of B.C.
There are many reasons why youth may try using drugs. They may be curious and be seeking something new to try. They may be trying to fit in with their friends, looking for escape, or relief from pain and trauma.
When it comes to substance use, establishing a positive relationship with a teen can go a long way. Having respectful conversations together about health and well-being can help influence healthier choices.
Having open, honest and respectful discussions about opioids and other drugs is important. Making it okay to talk about difficult subjects as a family helps teens to talk about difficult subjects. It also helps adults and youth build stronger bonds which are a key factor in protecting teens from substance-related harms.
Tips for having conversations with youth about drugs, while keeping your relationship strong:
- Be Open, Loving & Involved
Respect that youth are experts in their own culture, so invite them to teach you about their world. Praising positive behaviour, showing respect and demonstrating genuine interest in their lives on an ongoing basis will help ensure that you stay connected and maintain open communication. Your child needs to know you’re there to listen and talk to when they need it. By encouraging open and regular communication, you will show them that their thoughts and concerns are important.
- Seize Conversational Opportunities
You can bring up something you saw on social media, in a newspaper article or on a TV show about drugs to start a conversation with youth in your life. Ask about what concerns, worries or questions that they have about ‘what is happening’. Opioids (e.g., pain medications) or other drugs may come up naturally when someone in the family gets a prescription. Use these types of opportunities to chat about substance use and overdose prevention.
- Ask Questions, Then Listen
Ask questions and then listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to agree with everything, but it’s helpful to avoid reacting with anger or negativity to what they share.
- Speak From Your Heart
Focus on your heartfelt concerns for their safety and a deep regard for their wellness (in contrast to right/wrong, good/bad, obey/punish). Emphasize your deep caring, commitment to trying to understand and be present in their life.
For more tips and resources, take a look at:
- HealthLink BC: How to Start a Conversation with Teens About Opioids
- HealthLink BC: Using Conversations to Teach Resilience: Teens
- Healthy Families BC: Tricky Conversations
- First Nations Health Authority: Tips and hints for talking with kids about drugs and alcohol
- Island Health: Let’s Talk: Speaking with our kids about substance use (PDF)
- HeretoHelp: A Guidebook for Parents of Young Teens about alcohol and other drugs (PDF)