Talking to your child about drugs

It can be difficult to talk about drugs with your children, but a few key pointers can make it a whole lot easier. Use these tips to help you talk openly about drugs with your child.


Make sure you understand enough about drugs, including why your child might experiment with them, so you can talk to your child in an informed way. Understanding the facts about drugs will also help you keep calm in a crisis.

Do your homework
Pick a good time

Don’t do it before they rush off to school or when family or friends are around. Also it's never a good idea to try and talk things through when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It's best to avoid the 'BIG TALK' about drugs, sex, the life, universe and everything. Make it a continual process, It may help to discuss it when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news. Mealtimes can also be a good forum for discussion.

Take the opportunities to talk when they arise
Let them know your values and boundaries

It’s important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking. Be clear about your opinions on drugs so that they know your boundaries.

It’s never too early to talk about drugs

It’s a good idea to start talking about the issue before they start experimenting with drugs. Make them feel strong and independent enough to be able to say no.

Avoid scare tactics

Your teenage children may know more people who take drugs than you do, so scare tactics may run contary to their experiences. Point out the realtive harms of drugs and alcohol not just the most serious consequences, the information on the A-Z pages may help. 

Know their friends

Peer influence can be a key factor in determining whether a child experiements with drugs and alcohol. However, it's worth remembering that peer influence is a two way street, young people may select peers because of what they are doing. Get to know their friends. Invite them to the house and take an interest in what’s going on in their lives as well as your own children.

Let them know you’re always there for them

That way they can be honest with you about what they’re up to and they won't just tell you what they think you want to hear.

Listen as well as talk

Talking to teenagers can be hard. When you're discussing drugs, don’t preach or give a speech and don’t make assumptions about what they know or do. Let your child tell you about his or her experiences. It’s often easier not to talk face-to-face, but to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you’re driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food.


Don’t be provoked or put off talking if they argue, get embarrassed or storm off. Parents’ opinions matter to their children. Revisit the subject when they’ve calmed down. 


You’re trying to help your child make good choices in life about drugs. But only they can say no to drugs. Be sure they know you support them, but emphasise that it's up to them to make the positive decision to be drug free.

Be realistic & don't panic

It’s common for teenagers to experiment with drugs. Remember that only a small proportion of those who experiment will develop a drug problem. If you find out that your child has tried drugs, your first reaction may be anger or panic. Wait until you're calm before discussing it with them, and do so in a way that shows your love and concern rather than anger.

The three R's

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship. This is the most important tool you have when supporting your child.

As they become a teenager your relationship will change. You may feel that you have less control or that they don't listen to you anymore, this is normal (if difficult).

Where possible try and change with them, focus on keeping your relationship open, positive and supportive and seek help if you need it.