For Parents & Carers
Solvent abuse can be one of those things that come out of the blue and which no one seems to know anything about. We’re here to help – you can chat with us online, call us on 01785 810762 or text/whatsapp on 07946 959930.
Talking about drugs with your children can help protect them from harm. Often parents underestimate their influence but evidence shows that 11-15 year-olds in particular look to their parents for information. The advice below was developed with solvent abuse in mind, but the tips are relevant for talking about drugs more generally.
Why do young people use drugs?
Some young people experiment with drugs because they’re bored, or want to find out what it feels like. Drugs make some people feel good – they enjoy the sense of altered perception or they feel more confident. For others, drugs provide a means of escape from stress and other problems in their lives. And for young people whose friends take drugs, it can be difficult not to feel it’s the norm and something they should do in order to “fit in”.
Our top 10 tips
1) The earlier you start talking with your child, the better
You want the conversation to be ongoing. From the age of 7, children will start learning in school about different kind of risky situations. So it will help them if these kinds of issues are also discussed at home.
2) Don’t assume that you’ve had “the talk”
AN NHS survey showed that 75% of parents of 11-16 year olds thought they’d had a conversation about drugs with their child, but only 36% of 11-17 year olds said they remembered such a conversation.
3) Choose the right moment to have the conversation
Don’t start a conversation when you’re child is running out of the door or going to bed. A family meal can be a good time, or perhaps a walk or drive where there’s time to talk. Sometimes being side-by-side rather than face-to-face can feel less confrontational.
4) Use opportunities to talk as they arise
You could use adverts, soaps or news stories to spark the topic. Or you could ask what your child has learned about drugs at school or at college. Try not to start with questions about their behaviour, or what they have been up to when you’re not around! You want them to talk honestly, not just tell you what they think you want to hear.
5) Listen to your child
Ask open questions (rather than questions that lead to a simple “yes” or “no” answer) and listen to your child’s answers. Listening can be the most helpful thing you can do.
6) Provide the facts
Make sure you’ve done your homework and have a reasonable basic knowledge about drugs.
7) Avoid scare tactics with your child
Evidence suggests that scare tactics don’t work. Teenagers may know more people who take drugs than you, so they will judge what you say by what they have seen.
Instead, be frank about your own reasons why you’d rather they didn’t take drugs. This might include:
- You want your child to avoid drugs – your values and attitudes count with your child, even though they may not always show it.
- Drugs can be dangerous, and can lead people to do things they wouldn’t normally choose to do
- Many drugs are illegal, and a criminal record can limit your life choices
Agree on rules and boundaries together, be consistent, and reward children for sticking to them.
8) Think about peer pressure
Help your child to come up with ways where they may feel pressured into taking drugs. Most young people don’t use drugs, so make sure your child knows that it’s not the norm to take drugs and it’s ok to say no.
Know your children’s friends. You may find that other parents in your child’s friendship group share your concerns, so you could agree together on rules around parties and supervision.
9) Don’t panic
If your child has tried drugs, don’t panic! They’re not the first and they won’t be the last. Try to stay calm and find a good time for discussion – not when they’re high from using drugs. Try to show love and concern rather than anger.
It may not always be easy. If your child argues or becomes angry, don’t worry. This is an ongoing conversation and you can always revisit the discussion at another, calmer time.
Sometimes a quick text message to show you’re thinking of them can be the most effective reminder that you care.
For more information on the individual substances involved in solvent abuse, please visit our pages on solvent abuse, nitrous oxide, butane and other gases and glues, petrol and other solvents.