Young people from all backgrounds may be tempted to take drugs. As a parent you may worry of the risk to your children from substances. This concern can lead you to believe that:
- Using any kind of drug automatically leads to dependency
- If your kids use drugs then you are bad parents
- Drugs cause social problems
- That everyone else sees drug use as evil
These feelings can cause communication problems between you and your children on drug issues. Parents often can’t understand why children would want to use drugs.
You may feel nervous talking to your children about drugs and are unsure what approach to take. You may think that you:
- Don’t know anything about drugs
- Don’t know what to do if your child is using any kind of drug
- Don’t know what signs to look out for
- Don’t know how to raise the issue with your child
- Don’t know where to get information
It’s important to start talking to your child as early as possible to develop a trusting relationship. This helps to protect them against substance abuse. If a family member has had an addiction, your child’s risk of developing a problem is higher so it is even more important to talk to them about it.
Your first steps
- Educate yourself about drugs
- Set an example
- Set clear boundaries
- Always keep lines of communication open
There is no sure way to prevent your child using drugs but you can decrease the chances of it happening if you:
- Maintain good communication with your child. Make sure they know they can talk to you if they have any concerns or issues.
- Be interested in their activities and know who their friends are. Help with homework and give them lifts to and from sports and other activities.
- Have open discussions with your child from a young age about drug use: what they would do if offered drugs, explore examples, positives and negatives of use.
- Encourage them not to drink or smoke. The longer you can delay this the less likely they are to use illegal drugs.
- Make sure your own use of alcohol or other drugs is responsible. The best way to influence their behaviour is by example.
- Inform yourself about drugs.
- Praise and encourage healthy behaviour.
- Have positive expectations for your children.
- Set clear boundaries in your home.
Set an example
We expect our children to do what we say, but they will do what we do. The way you use alcohol, tobacco and medicines in your home will influence how they behave towards drugs.
What you can do as a parent
Take some time to gather your thoughts on the issue and download the HSE resource 'Alcohol and Drugs:A Parent’s Guide'