What should I do to educate my child about drugs?
- Parents matter: Parents play an important role in educating young people about drugs. Plan for a conversation with your child, research the facts, get a sense of our own feelings, what approach you are taking and pick the right time to start the chat.
- Start the discussion: Try opening with a phrase like: ‘I saw something in the paper about young people. I wanted to discuss it with you to see if you know anything about it…’ and take it from there.
- Prepare active listening tips: When a parent listens actively, this can encourage your child to talk and express their feelings. Get more advice on this approach in the HSE’s Parents Guide the link for which is below.
- What should my child know? The basic facts about drugs and alcohol, why they should avoid them - especially while their bodies and brains are still developing, ways to avoid harm, ways to enjoy themselves and cope with life’s ups and downs without using substances.
- Avoid focusing on one drug: Ask your child what they think are the most common drugs that young people use in your community. It’s important that the discussion with your child includes all substances they may be aware of, or at risk of coming in contact with. Nitrous oxide may not be a trend in your area but other drugs like alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy or ketamine could be. New trends emerge from time to time, if of concern, the HSE will issue information to the media where you can find more information on this trend on Drugs.ie.
- Why do people use substances? When looking at the risks, it is also useful to show that you understand why young people use substances. The most commonly reported reason given by young people for initially trying a drug is curiosity. For example, people use cannabis to feel ‘chilled out’ or ‘relaxed’. With nitrous oxide, people use it to giggle, to feel laughter and for a quick rush of euphoria ‘high’.
- What are the risks? The risks range from short to long term harms and will depend on the substance. Some substances have more risks than others. It is important to highlight that each person will react to a substance differently, each friend in one group may have a different response – one could have a positive experiences whereas for the other it could be very negative. Also, from one occasion of use to the next, the same person may have different experiences. With nitrous oxide, the risks increase if it is used directly from a canister, if a lot is used; it is used frequently or with other substances.
Communicating the risks: It may be hard for a young person to really consider long term risks such as the effects on their developing brain. It can also be hard to understand the harms when they have not witnessed negative effects within their peer group. Pick points that could appeal to them and have an honest conversation about why you are concerned. You could chose to look at a website such as drugs.ie and read about the risks together, and discuss which ones you knew about before, and which ones are new information.
Prepare them for peer influence - where they may see others engaging in behaviours and feel an interest themselves.
Get more information from the HSE resource 'Alcohol and Drugs: A Parent's Guide'