If your child has begun to experiment with substances – it’s time for a conversation
Finding out that your child is experimenting with drugs or using them can be a particularly challenging thing to think or talk about – but it’s important to get past the fear and have informed and effective conversations with your child.
Before you begin that initial conversation about their use of substances, consider your tone and make sure that your child knows you are coming from a place of non-judgement and most of all, ensure that you are actively listening with compassion to what your child is saying.
Taking the time to learn more about the substance they are using and then approaching the situation calmly with your teen can help them feel safe to discuss their own issues or difficulties with you.
Find out their “why”
It’s important for parents to understand why their child might have turned to alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs in the first place – kids will try substances for a number of different reasons, including as a way to cope with the stress and anxiety they may be feeling.
There are a variety of reasons that a young person might decide to use drugs. Finding out why they made that choice can be a valuable opportunity to understand more about what your teen may be experiencing in their own life. Some reasons why kids might use:
- they may be trying to fit in
- they find it easier to socialize with their friends
- they think that everyone is doing it.
- they are coping with uncomfortable feelings like stress or anxiety
- they’re bored
- they think it helps them relax or sleep
- they don’t know how to say “no thanks”
If they are using is as a coping mechanism to deal with uncomfortable feelings, the substances that they are trying might be working for them on the short term. Drinking alcohol at a party might help them feel less awkward, or smoking cannabis might make them feel calmer, or help them sleep through anxious feelings, at least on the short term. If they’ve only tried pot or alcohol a couple of times at a party, it may also be simply because they do not know how to say, “no thanks”.
This would be a good opportunity to talk with your teen about the effects these substances can have; their effects on a developing brain, a greater chance of engaging in risky behaviours, changes in mood, or the harms of binge drinking on the body.
Let them know that no matter what, you are always there to talk with them about their stress, anxiety, and any other uncomfortable feelings. Together, take some time to strategize ways they can decline or deflect substance use at a party.
Together, find healthy alternatives that address the reasons why they might have chosen to use substances in the first place, these may help your teen reduce their occasional use or choose to abstain completely.
When does substance use become problematic?
A young person is using substances problematically if they start using a drug regularly – that can mean every day, almost every day, or every weekend for several weeks, months or years. That frequency of drug use can develop into a substance use disorder, or addiction.