Parents are being urged to “have the chat” with their teens about drugs, rather than avoiding the conversation by dismissing their kids off with a stern “just say no”.
Public health charity Addaction found through a YouGov survey that 61% of parents don’t think there is enough advice on talking to young people about drugs. Interestingly, 35% of the 1,000 mums and dads surveyed said they would feel “very confident” giving advice to their teenagers about drugs.
So how should they be discussing it?
“It’s totally normal to worry as a parent, but telling a teenager to ‘just say no’ isn’t helpful and is often counterproductive,” said Karen Tyrell, director at Addaction. “Our advice is start the chat, keep talking, listen well, and don’t turn it into a big thing.”
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It’s natural to want to protect your child from ever touching drugs, said Karen, but as kids grow into teens they want to take risks, and that’s just part of the way they learn about the world.
To launch their ‘Have the Chat’ campaign, Addaction has developed seven tips for parents to start the conversation about drugs.
1. Don’t make it a big thing. Everyone will feel awkward if you treat it like a ‘big talk’… including parents. Try to think of it as the start of a regular conversation. You want to show your kids it’s okay to talk about drugs.
2. Pick the right moment. You’ll need a time and place when you both feel comfortable. Side-by-side chats can help put everyone at ease – try a car journey or a walk.
3. Don’t feel like you have to be an expert. No-one knows about every drug, but you’re the expert on your own kids. Think about your own experience and draw on that. Do some research too if you need to.
4. Listen without lecturing. We know the ‘just say no’ message doesn’t work – in fact it can have the opposite effect. Your teenager won’t want to talk if they feel judged or preached at.
5. Be patient. Kids will need a bit of…