We're urging parents to take time out to ‘Have the Chat’ with their teenagers about drugs.
“It’s totally normal to worry as a parent, but telling a teenager to ‘just say no’ isn’t helpful and is often counterproductive. Our advice is start the chat, keep talking, listen well, and don’t turn it into a big thing,” said Karen Tyrell, Director at Addaction.
In a YouGov survey commissioned by Addaction, just 37% of British mums and 42% of dads with children aged 12 to 18 think there is enough advice for parents about young people and drugs.
To launch the Have the Chat campaign we've developed seven tips for parents to start the conversation about drugs.
Karen 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 way to help their kids stay safe and when it comes to drugs, we’ve made it our mission to help. Half term is a great opportunity to use the tips below, look at the other resources on our website and have a chat.”
YouGov surveyed 901 British parents of children aged 12-18 and found 35% of parents would feel very confident giving advice to their teenagers about drugs. One in three mums (32%) would feel very confident advising their teens about drugs compared with 38% of dads. Nearly half of Scottish parents (45%) would feel very confident giving advice compared with 34% of English parents.
Parents who want extra advice, support, or encouragement can use Addaction’s free and confidential web chat service, staffed by trained advisors.
Seven tips to have the chat
- 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 kids it’s okay to talk about drugs.
- 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.
- Don’t feel like you have to be an expert. No-one knows about every drug. But you’re the expert on your own kids. Think about your own experiences and draw on that. Do some research too if you need to.
- 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.
- Be patient. Kids 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 come to you if things go wrong. No conversation is out of bounds, you’re always there to help.
- 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.
- 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.
About this survey
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 8531 adults, of which 901 were parents of children aged 12 to 18. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th - 12th October 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
We support people to take control of their own lives and make positive changes. For 50 years we have made a difference to people who want to change their relationship with drugs and alcohol and improve their mental health and wellbeing. Our services are delivered in 81 locations in England and Scotland. We reached more than 130,000 people last year www.addaction.org.uk. We worked with more than 5,000 young people in treatment last year and 18,000 though it’s award-winning Mind and Body programme.