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Alcohol & Other Drugs

Talking About Drugs with your Child

The Centre for Addictions Research of BC

Reprinted from "Families and Crisis" issue of Visions Journal, 2017, 12 (4), p. 14

It’s never too early or too late to talk about substance use with your child. Recent fentanyl-related incidents are a reminder of just how important those conversations are. Talking openly about opioids and other drugs can help build a strong relationship with your child—a key way to protect them from substance-related harm. The exact words you use are less important than connecting and engaging in conversation.

One way to begin the conversation is to ask for your child’s opinions about the current focus on fentanyl. What do they think about the crisis? Why might people be overdosing more often? How do they think they can address their own wellness and safety in the current environment? The goal is to get your child to talk and share their thoughts and feelings.

Responding to your child’s drug use

If you discover that your child is using, the most helpful response is still open and honest conversation.

  • Think before you react. Taking time to go over things (on your own or with someone else) can help you clarify what is going on. Maybe a particular event or interaction led to the current situation. Maybe your child is dealing with issues that you aren’t fully aware of.

  • Wait for the right time. A thoughtful conversation is probably not possible while your child is intoxicated or high. Address immediate safety needs and wait until later to have a talk.

  • Listen more than talk. You could start by acknowledging your own concern and saying, “I’m worried because...” or “I’m afraid because...” Then give your child an opportunity to express their own feelings, making sure they know they are being listened to. You might say something like “I’d be really interested to hear more about...”

  • Lower the risks. A child who is using a substance may need help managing the risks and using the substance in the safest way possible. The Safer Use series (www.heretohelp.bc.ca/factsheet/safer-use-series) offers some ways to reduce substance-related harms.

“Parenting: The Drugs Question” provides more tips on how to help address substance use with your child.

For information on treatment options and resources throughout BC, call the Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service at 1-800-663-1441. In Greater Vancouver, call 604-660-9382.

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