Have the chat

This half term, we're urging parents to take time-out to ‘Have the chat’ with their teenagers about drugs.

Karen Tyrell, Addaction spokesperson and mother of two, said: “It’s natural to want to protect your child, but as kids grow into teens, they want to take risks - it’s part of the way they learn about the world.

"Parents need to educate themselves on the best ways to help their kids stay safe. When it comes to drugs, we’ve made it our mission to help."

Half term is a great opportunity to use the tips below, to look at the other resources on our website and to have a chat.

Watch Karen talk about why ‘just say no’ isn’t helpful.

7 tips to help you ‘Have the chat’

To launch the Have the chat campaign, we've developed seven tips for parents to start the conversation about drugs.

1.Don’t make it a big thing

Everyone will feel awkward if you treat it like a ‘big talk’...including you. Try to think of it as the start of a regular conversation. You want to show your child it’s okay to talk about drugs.

2. Pick the right moment

You’ll need a time and place when you both feel comfortable. Side-by-side chats can help put everyone at ease - try a car journey or a walk. 

3. Don’t feel like you have to be an expert

No-one knows about every drug. But you’re the expert on your own child.  Think about your own experiences and draw on that. Do some research too if you need to. 

4. Listen without lecturing

We know the ‘just say no’ message doesn’t work...in fact it can have the opposite effect. Your teenager won’t want to talk if they feel judged or preached at. 

5. Be patient

Young people will need a bit of time and space to think about what you discuss. This is normal and not something to worry about. But make sure they know they can always come to you if things go wrong.

6. Be realistic

There’s a good chance your teenager will come into contact with cigarettes, drugs or alcohol at some point. It’s important to be realistic, even if that feels scary. If you start the conversation, be prepared to hear answers you might not like.

7. Don’t give up

Be kind to yourself and remember that this isn’t a pass / fail test. These things take time - even if the conversation doesn’t go the way you want an initial chat can help sow a seed for the future.

Addaction's Karen has written an article reflecting on why an honest open chat is so important.

If you find out your teen is using drugs

Finding out your child is using drugs can be very stressful and confusing. We asked frontline youth worker Neil Coles for advice on how to respond.

Neil said: “If you find out your kid is using drugs, don’t panic. Remember the majority of young people will come into contact with drugs at some point, so don’t resort to scare tactics or dishing out punishments, as this will only drive a wedge between you and your kid. Instead, remain calm and have an open conversation. If you feel out of your depth, do some research so you feel more confident about giving advice.”

Read Neil's full article on what to do if you find out your teenager is using drugs.

Watch Rick Bradley, father and manager of our Mind and Body programme, discuss why it's important not to panic if you find yourself in this situation.

Where you can get more support

Parents who want extra advice, support or encouragement can use Addaction’s free and confidential web chat service, staffed by trained advisors.

To start a webchat, click on the chat button on the bottom right hand side of the webpage. Webchat is available on your laptop or mobile.

Our opening times vary week to week but we're usually available Monday-Friday.