Whilst researching for upcoming sessions, we found this great article from the Herts Alcohol Campaign - a great read!
Children’s attitudes to drugs and alcohol change as they grow up, particularly as they progress from primary to secondary school and are exposed to new influences. The earlier you can talk to them about drugs and alcohol, the better - even if they seem too young.
Many parents assume that school is the best place to learn about drugs and alcohol, but the Hertfordshire Health Related Behaviour survey showed that 65% of boys and 72% of girls in years 5 and 6 would like to talk about drugs with their parents. Drug and alcohol education is not compulsory in schools so finding out what your child has already learnt about drugs and alcohol at school and discussing it in more depth at home, can be a good way to start a conversation about drugs and alcohol.
Before you talk to your child about drugs and alcohol, it is important to make sure you are prepared and have accurate, up-to-date information about different types of drugs and alcohol available and ensure you make the time to have the conversation.
Our survey showed that the key to successfully talking to your child about drugs and alcohol is to be honest, stay calm and open-minded and encourage a natural and relaxed conversation. Try to find out how things are going outside of home, with their friends, at school, etc. Make sure you listen to what your child says and encourage a two-way conversation rather than just speaking at them.
• 73% of parents are confident to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol but only 30% would know where to get support (Hertfordshire Survey)
• The earlier a child starts drinking, the higher their chances of developing alcohol abuse or dependence in their teenage years and adult life (Drinkaware.co.uk)
• Levels of drug use among young people aged 11-15 have gone down in recent years from 20% in 2001 to 12% in 2012 (Talktofrank.com)
• 43% of 11-15 year olds have tried alcohol and those who have are drinking twice as much as they were in 1990 (Drinkaware.co.uk)
• Most young people do not use drugs. Less than one in five young people (aged 16-24) say they have used cannabis in the last year (Talktofrank.com)
• Almost 65,000 young people every year need treatment in hospital A&E departments because of alcohol (Drinkaware.co.uk)
80% of parents say they’ll “deal with it when it happens” when it comes to talking to their child about drugs and alcohol, but it’s better to talk about the risks before your child unknowingly puts themselves in a risky situation. Below are some tips on how to handle the conversation:
Have a plan – Know what you intend to say and discuss with the other parent what rules and boundaries you’d like to put in place. Even if you and the other parent live apart, make a plan to talk to your child about drugs and alcohol.
Make it a conversation – Don’t lecture them. Ensure the talk is a two-way process. By listening as much as you talk, young people are encouraged to pay attention and open up. It’s essential that you don’t come across as critical, judgmental or disapproving of what they say.
Be honest – It’s better to be open and honest , particularly when asked about your own experience, for example saying “yes, I drank at your age – and I wish I hadn’t. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have”. If the questions get too uncomfortable for you to handle, make sure you say so - “You’re making me face up to the fact that I should look at what I drink now. I might need to cut down”. If you’re not honest your child won’t believe you.
Bring the subject up naturally – A soap storyline, a recent film or TV drama, the latest celebrity scandal involving drink or drugs, even gossip about family or friends are all great ways to start the conversation naturally. Just by asking for your child’s opinion on the matter and listening to what they have to say, you open up the opportunity for a conversation.
It’s never too late to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol even if they have already developed a problem. The support of parents and families can make a big difference to a person’s health and their ability to deal with their problem. Drug and alcohol services, counselling services, and self-help groups offer support to your child at any stage, whether they are ready to change their behaviour or not.
For more information on the support available, visit:
• Drink Aware
• Talk to Frank
• Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust