Information For Parents, Family and Friends

Substance Use

It is a good idea to talk to your child about substance use and safety. It is important to ask your child what they know about drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Younger children look up to older siblings or peers who may be experimenting with substance use so it is important that children and youth have the facts. They may also be exposed to conflicting messages about substance use from home, friends, and the media. Make sure your child is aware of the legal, social, physical and mental problems that can come from substance use.

Adolescence is a time of significant growth and change. It is also the period when risk-taking and substance use most commonly begins. Youth may try drugs, drink alcohol, smoke or vape because they feel pressured to fit in with peers. Some may use substances to rebel or escape from their lives. Others may be drawn by curiosity. Some teens may have been introduced to prescription drugs (e.g., T3s after dental surgery), while others may try using other people’s prescription drugs. And a very few may experiment with street drugs like methamphetamine, ecstasy (MDMA) or fentanyl.

Whatever the reason, it is important to talk to your child about the effects of substance use. When talking to your child, stay calm and listen. For children who are using substances, it may be necessary to seek help outside of your family, such as an addictions counsellor, to get to the source of the problem.

Role of parents and supportive adults

Research shows that youth engage in less substance use when they have higher self-esteem, supportive relationships with adults (e.g., parents, teachers, family members and other professionals) and positive role models. Talk respectfully with the youth in your life about the facts and risks of using substances in a non-judgmental and sensitive way.

Talking to youth

Parents can play a key part in teaching their children about substance use by talking factually, honestly and openly about the effects of substances and giving answers they’ll understand. Here are some tips on how to have a conversation with your child(ren):

  • Educate yourself so you can answer questions. If you don’t know the answers, offer to look for them together.
  • Become informed. Learn about the substances commonly used by young people. Find out how the substances work, what their street names are, and the signs of being under the influence.
  • Be a good listener. Give your kids room to participate and ask questions. Respect their opinion.
  • Stick to the facts. Avoid scare tactics and exaggeration. Research shows these tactics do not work, and may actually lead to a loss of trust.
  • Look for natural opportunities to discuss substance use and decision-making, including stories in the news and social media.
  • Be open and respectful. Ask questions about what they’re hearing, seeing or have learned. Then, listen.
  • Talk about why people use substances and the potential consequences.
  • Focus on your heartfelt concerns for their safety and a deep regard for their wellness (in contrast to right/wrong, good/bad, obey/punish). Emphasize your deep caring and commitment to understand in contrast to ‘setting them straight’.

For more information on substance use and how to speak to your children, check out the following links:

Resources from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba

For More Information on Agencies Servicing Youth click here.