It’s not easy for parents to start a conversation about drugs with their children. But youths become vulnerable targets as soon as they set foot in school, where they quickly meet people who use drugs. That’s why parents must take the time to discuss this matter with their children.

Sure, drug use is sometimes a taboo and difficult subject, but keep in mind that your child has probably already been in contact with people who use drugs, to varying degrees of severity. Whether or not your child’s behavior leads you to believe that they are using, know that it’s always wise to have this discussions as a preventive measure, that there is no right or wrong moment to have it, and that it is never too late nor too soon.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way.

1—First off, make sure you know what you are talking about

Prior to having a conversation, get some information. What is drug use? What are its effects? You’ll be better prepared to answer the questions they might have. Avoid taking on an alarming tone right from the get go. But do speak frankly about the short-term and long-term risks and damages drugs have (anxiety, respiratory problems, cancer, etc.)

2Get your timing right

There is no such thing as the perfect moment, but it’s never too late. If you think your child is using, avoid broaching the subject when you suspect they are under the influence of a drug, because they won’t be receptive. It’s best to wait until they are sober. As always, approaching them with a calm and understanding attitude will yield better results and will show your open-mindedness.

3Be open

If your child is feeling as if you are judging them, they won’t want to open up to you anymore. If they admit using or having used drugs, suggest having a conversation about it with you. Ask them questions to show you care about them and their well-being. Try to understand what motivates their drug use. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but choose your words carefully. It would be counterproductive if your child felt they were being interrogated. It’s important that they feel that you truly want to understand what they are going through in order to help them. It’s important to remain calm, whatever their answers may be.

4Talk about it

If you have yourself used drugs, if you personally know someone who did, or if you are aware of a situation that turned out badly, talk about it. Explain what could have been different. Getting advice from someone we can relate to and who has lived a similar experience renders us more accepting of the advice.

5Be honest

The key to a successful conversation is honesty. Share your feelings and your worries in a calm voice and with clear words. Your child will feel closer to you if you show yourself to be open. If you are honest with them, chances are they will be honest with you as well.

6Be firm

It might be impossible for you to control your child when they are not at home. Be firm. Clearly set out the rules regarding drugs at home, and be precise about the consequences they will face if they break them. You have the right to impose your rules. Set limits to make your message and your position clear.

7Ask for help when you need it

As a parent, you cannot always do everything on your own.

Whatever your motivation may be, whether you suspect your child is using drugs or you simply want to discuss drugs as a means of prevention, be patient. One conversation is rarely enough to deal with this issue.

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