How to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol: a guide for parents from Addaction and Amy Winehouse Foundation

The Amy Winehouse Foundation Resilience Programme and Addaction have published a guide to help parents talk to their children about drugs and alcohol.

Scott Haines, Head of the Resilience Programme said: “We know from our work in schools that lots of parents worry about how to have a conversation about drugs and alcohol. This is completely understandable but the good news is that there are lots of positive ways to open up an ongoing conversation. The first step is letting your children know that you’re available and willing to talk.”

The parents’ handbook, published today includes background information about drugs and alcohol and practical, step-by-step tips to help parents start the conversation.

The guide includes the following advice for parents:

Don’t make it a big scary thing

Avoid having the ‘big talk’. Start the discussion early and talk regularly and openly. This will help avoid you or your child feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

Plan ahead for the conversation

Identify a suitable and convenient time to talk with your child. Perhaps you could use a relevant film or TV storyline to break the ice and begin a discussion. Do a bit of background reading on

Think about location/environment

You should consider when and where might be a good place to begin to have the conversation - perhaps on a car journey or walk. Ideally you want to be somewhere your child feels safe and comfortable. This will encourage them to open up to you.

Don’t presume the issue won’t affect you or your children

We know from our experience that people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life use drugs or alcohol.

Don’t give up

If the conversation doesn’t go the way you expected, remember an initial chat can help to sow a seed and children do benefit more from a continual conversation rather than a ‘big talk’. If your child feels reassured that you are available and will support them if they get into any problems, rather than punishing or sanctioning them, they are much more likely to ask for help early on, before any problems get out of hand.

Talk to other parents

It may be useful to talk with other parents in a similar position to find out what worked or didn’t work for them. This will also help ensure you feel supported.

Jane Winehouse, Managing Trustee of the Amy Winehouse Foundation said: "Parents want the best for their children, so it can be hard for them to acknowledge that drugs or alcohol could become an issue. This guide can help parents to have those important conversations in a relaxed and open way."

Karen Tyrell, Executive Director for External Affairs at Addaction said: “Research shows that children really do want to talk to their parents about drugs and alcohol - even though they might feel a bit awkward. Regular short conversations are the way to go as it helps make something which feels like a tricky issue more manageable. Being available to listen is much more important than knowing all the details.”

The parents’ guide is available here:

About the Resilience Programme

The Amy Winehouse Foundation Resilience Programme was launched in 2013 and then expanded in 2014 thanks to funding from the BIG Lottery Fund. Delivered in more than 200 schools across England, the Resilience Programme works with parents, teachers and pupils to better manage their emotional wellbeing to enable students to make healthy decisions about the use of drugs and alcohol, and about how to best handle peer pressure, their self esteem and risky situations.