Drugs and Alcohol
As single parents we often feel judged and blamed by society if our children go ‘off the rails’ which increases our fear and uncertainty of our children getting hooked on drugs or alcohol?
Do you feel ill-equipped and frightened about dealing with the whole area of substance abuse?
- Never underestimate the importance of talking.
- Try to be open and non-judgemental
- Encourage your child to take up interests and hobbies
- Get as much help and support as you can, from other parents, professionals and support organisations.
Why talking to your teenager is so important
Talking to your teenager about drugs is essential and is one of the critical factors that can positively affect the choice a young person will make if faced with the opportunity to take drugs. Teenagers experience huge amounts of peer pressure and it is vital that they have other viewpoints to consider. A lot of parents know how important it is but put it off because they feel awkward. The truth is that the long term benefits of open and direct communication far outweigh the short-lived discomfort and awkwardness you might feel.
Be open and non-judgemental
Start talking to your child as early as possible – before they go to secondary school if possible, but better later than never! Make sure you always approach the conversation with a non-judgemental attitude and be careful not to push your child, but remain open and receptive to their thoughts and responses. If they seem reluctant you could try using leaflets or websites as a starting point for a discussion. And don’t forget to talk about the legal drugs as well as the illegal ones: alcohol, smoking, caffeine (it’s worth also mentioning "energy drinks" like Red Bull and Monster).
Bored children tend to get into more trouble
Teenagers who have no interests, hobbies, sports or social activities are much more likely to be comfortable with the notion of sitting around getting drunk or high than kids who have commitments to a club or are busy with a sport that motivates them. For single parents who may be on low incomes or working full-time, it can be difficult to find the money and/or the time to support an activity, but if you think it is something that could make the difference to your son or daughter then explore some possibilities - maybe something to do together?
Get help and support
If you suspect that your teenage son or daughter is taking drugs or drinking it is important to talk to someone else about it first so you don’t have to deal with it alone. PADA have a helpline for parents. They can help you to decide if your suspicions are well-founded and to consider what to do next.
Most people’s first reaction is to be angry, which is not always helpful, so give yourself some space before you tackle the situation. Try to remember what it was like for you as a teenager and the enormous pressures that you faced as a young person – your son or daughter is experiencing those same pressures but in a world where illegal drugs and binge drinking are much more the norm then they were when you were young.
- Talking to your child doesn’t guarantee that they won’t take drugs or abuse alcohol but some recent research suggests that when young people need help they go to the person who offered them help in the first place.
- It is up to you whether you tell your child about your own experiences with drugs as they won’t necessarily judge their own situation on what you did in the past and see this as a reason not to do it – you’re still standing aren’t you? However sharing your experiences may be a positive one.
- You are the professional as far as your child is concerned. Drug awareness programmes in school can be excellent but they are generalised, and can’t deal with the specific circumstances of your child or particular questions or concerns they may have. There are plenty of websites you can look at and organisations who can send you information, so start educating yourself and your teenager/s.
- www.talktofrank.com – website aimed at young people, offering information and advice including links to on-line support and helpline. Includes page for family and friends worried about someone.
- www.thesite.org - Online guide to life for 16-25 year-olds in the UK and includes section on Drink & Drugs.
- Parents Against Drug Abuse 24hr helpline: 08457 023 867 support for any family member, partner or friend of substance misuser
- www.youngminds.org.uk - supporting parents with young people's mental health and wellbeing
You may worry that talking about these issues will have the opposite effect and will make your children want to try drugs. Or that if you have misused drugs yourself you will seem hypocritical. Talk to other parents on forums such as Mumsnet, DadInfo and The Parent Connection.