Raising the Dreaded Subject of Drugs

By: Sue Atkins
Communicating well is essential at any stage of your child's development but it is particularly important during the transitional stage of adolescence. So here are a few tried and tested tips for talking about drugs to your teenager

- Begin with a non-judgemental attitude.

- Don't push your teen but be open and receptive.

- It's not a good idea to share your experiences and don't assume you know all the issues involved e.g. you may have smoked pot but nowadays 'skunk' - a much stronger version grown from specially cultivated seeds - is more common.

15 years ago, smoking pot was likely to make you giggly, hungry and perhaps slightly dizzy whereas skunk is more likely to cause hallucinogenic effects, and carries a bigger risk of anxiety, panic and paranoia.

- Remember it's normal for teenagers to experiment, whether in terms of music, sports or drugs.

- Many young people don't want to talk to their parents about drugs but will talk to other people - try to see this normal teenage behaviour rather than rejection.

- Make sure your teenager knows where to go for information if they need it.

- Talk about legal drugs as well as illegal ones - like smoking, alcohol, caffeine (especially energy drinks like Red Bull) and diet pills.

- Drug counsellors use 5 key questions when discussing a client's experience: What? Why? When? Where? How?

So bear those questions in mind before you start to talk with your teenager and plan what sort of things you'd like to say and visualise saying them - notice your body language and your tone of voice and imagine everything going really well and see yourself and your teenager looking relaxed.

- Drug services don't just offer help to teenagers, they are also there for you as parents too if you need support and they will be very happy to answer any of your questions or offer suggestions about tackling difficult topics.

If a serious problem ever develops, remember that it will always be down to more than drugs. It's not always down to just you either! Look out for early signs that something is bothering your teenager - it could be a problem with school, friends, their environment, being bullied, exam pressure or even your teenager's mental disposition.

Keep in mind that you can offer advice and support to your teenager but they may not accept it. Just be patient, persistently supportive and show unconditional love.

It's an important step to want to talk about drugs with your child, so pat yourself on the back for taking the initiative.

Communication and an open attitude is vital throughout the years of raising your children and ideally begin to discuss some of these very important issues when your child is still young and mature enough to understand.

Ask yourself:

- When is it a good time to chat with my teenager naturally where we won't be interrupted by the phone, TV or other family members?

- How can I make the conversation relaxed?

- What is it I want to say?

- How can I listen well?

- Daydream and imagine the conversation going well and flowing naturally before you fall asleep and ask yourself how you can keep the lines of communication open easily as your child matures through this time of change and transition.

Spending time openly and naturally chatting with your teenager will keep your relationship open so find a relaxed time to walk the dog, shop for earings or watch a game of football where you can talk without too much intensity. Build bridges with your teens - not walls
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