The National Drugs Campaign aims to support parents of 13–17 year olds in their efforts to discuss and discourage illicit drug use with their children. Parents will have access to clear strategies and resources such as fact sheets and online information regarding illicit drugs, including contact information for the support, counselling and drug treatment services available to help their children avoid use.
One of the most effective deterrents to drug use among young people is a parent who wants to spend time with them – someone who talks with them about their friends, what goes on at school, the sport they play and what interests them.
The more parents and other family members get involved in children’s lives, the more positive young people will feel about themselves and the more likely they will be to respond favourably to their family’s views.
Specific campaign materials have been developed to help young people and parents understand more about the harmful effects of illicit drug use. More information on the Campaign can be found at www.australia.gov.au/drugs or by calling 1800 250 015.
Here are 10 ways to encourage your kids to talk about drugs with you.
1. Be an active part of their lives
Set aside time to spend with your kids. Take an interest in their activities and establish a routine for doing things with them. Spending time as a family is important, like eating together every day.
When they go out, don’t be afraid to ask where they’re going or who they’ll be with.
2. Listen to your kids
Showing that you’re prepared and willing to listen will help your kids feel more comfortable about talking with you. During a conversation try not to interrupt them or react in a way that will stop whatever you’re discussing. Encourage them to feel comfortable about telling you their problems, and ask for their input on family decisions to show that you value their opinions.
3. Be a role model
When it comes to drugs there’s no such thing as ‘do as I say, not as I do’. If you take drugs yourself you can’t expect your kids to take your advice. It’s important not to underestimate the influence your behaviour has on them, particularly when it comes to alcohol or tobacco, or misuse of medications.
4. Be honest with them
It’s natural that you won’t necessarily know everything about drugs. So while it’s important to be informed, you shouldn’t pretend to have answers to every question. Be prepared to say ‘I don’t know but I’ll find out for you’. If you’re honest and clear about where you stand, your kids will find it easier to be honest with you.
5. Pick your moment
Make sure you pick the right time to discuss drugs with your kids, by looking for natural opportunities as they arise. This might be when you’re all watching TV, or when they’re talking about their friends and/or someone at school.
6. Be calm throughout
When it comes to talking about drugs, being calm and rational is important. Do not overreact. Don’t ridicule or lecture, as this could make future discussions about drugs more difficult and make your kids more resistant to talking about them at all.
7. Avoid conflict
It’s difficult to solve a problem when there’s a conflict. Try to see your child’s point of view while encouraging them to understand yours. If a confrontation does develop, stop the conversation and come back to it when everyone is calmer.
8. Keep talking
Once you’ve had a discussion about drugs it’s important to have another. Start talking to your kids about drugs early, and be willing to talk to your kids about the issue at any time.
9. Set clear boundaries
Generally kids expect and appreciate some ground rules. By actively involving them in setting the rules you can encourage them to take more responsibility for sticking to them. Once you’ve decided on these rules, enforce them, and let your kids know the consequences of breaking them.
Discuss and agree to ways your kids will act if they find themselves in situations where drugs are present. For example, let them know that you’ll always collect them if they need you to, whatever the hour.
However, make it absolutely clear that you would rather they didn’t put themselves in a situation where they are likely to be exposed to drugs in the first place.
10. Focus on positives
Recognise your kids’ good behaviour and emphasise the things they do well. Encourage them to feel good about themselves and let them know that they deserve respect and should also respect themselves.
For more ideas on how you can comfortably talk to your kids about drugs, visit the National Drugs Campaign website
or call 1800 250 015.