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A resource to start the conversation
about drug use and abuse.
Advice for Parents

.::: Answering Tough Questions

"Did you ever use drugs?"

When kids or teens ask tough questions like this, chances are that something is troubling them.

So use the opportunity to talk, not just answer the question.

Try to:

  • Listen carefully. Before answering be sure that you clearly understand what your child is asking.
  • Tell the truth. If your child discovers that you lied (even a long time afterwards), it will affect the trust you've established.
  • Give short, honest answers.You don’t need to go into details.
  • Focus on your child’s future, not your past.
  • Make it clear that you don’t want your child to make a decision that can harm him or others.

Suggested answers to tough questions

Did you ever use drugs?

As a parent, this question might make you uncomfortable, whether you used drugs or not. Thinking about your response ahead of time can make talking about it easier.

Before you answer, consider asking your child why they want to know, then go on to explain:

“If I say yes, you might think that I turned out okay and that using drugs might not be a big a deal which it is. If I say no, you might think I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Either way, since you’re asking about drugs, it’s a good time to discuss them. The most important thing to know is that I don’t want you to use anything that’s bad for you”.

Whichever choice you made, be honest and explain the reasons why you don’t want them to use drugs.

If you used drugs, explain:

  • What attracted you to them.
  • Why drugs are dangerous.
  • What you learned about the dangers.
  • Why you want your child to avoid using drugs and making the choices and mistakes that you did.

If you didn’t use drugs discuss:

  • Why you made that choice.
  • Why you’re glad you chose not to use drugs.
  • How other people you know were harmed by their decision to use drugs.

It’s only pot; what’s the big deal?

Before you answer, acknowledge that many kids are using marijuana today and you know that your child might feel pressured.

Then go on to explain:

“Marijuana is much stronger today than it used to be. More kids are using it at younger ages and it can cause bigger problems because their bodies and minds are still developing.
Marijuana can affect how well you do at school, work and in the future. It’s addictive and illegal and there can be serious consequences if you get caught with it.
We know more about the problems it can cause than we used to. It’s one of those things that I don’t want you to use because of the problems it can cause.”

You and your friends always drink. Why can’t I?

If your kids see you drink alcohol, they might assume it’s okay for them to drink too.

Start by telling them that by law, only adults are allowed to drink.

Then go on to explain:

In Ontario, it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 19 to drink alcohol. I think it’s important for you to obey the law and wait until you’re the legal age.
Alcohol affects adult bodies and brains less than teens. When you’re still growing, it can hurt your brain and body.
The earlier you start drinking, the more likely you’ll becoming addicted later in life. Even as an adult, it’s important for me to drink responsibly or there are legal and social consequences.”

My friend’s parents let them drink. Why won’t you let me?

If their friends’ parents let their kids drink alcohol, your kids might think it’s unfair that they don’t get to drink alcohol too.

Explain your views and concerns about underage drinking.

Then go on to explain:

Different families make different decisions.
The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19. I believe you should wait until you turn 19, and then you can make your own decision.
If other parents let their kids drink, that’s their choice. But it’s against the law for them to give alcohol to anyone else under 19 or to let underage teens drink on their property.
There can be serious legal problems for serving anyone underage, and people can even be sued when problems occur.
Drinking alcohol before you’re 19 is one of those things that I don’t want you to do because of the problems it causes.”

Everyone’s doing it, so what’s the big deal?

Answering this question can help put drug use in perspective and emphasize your views.

Acknowledge that when a whole group of friends are taking drugs or when people talk about drugs a lot, it seems that everyone’s doing them. But that isn’t so.

If someone you know (or your child knows) has been affected by drug use or addiction give that example. Then go on to explain:

Even if everyone was using drugs, I still wouldn’t want you to be using them.”

There are lots of reasons I don’t want you to use drugs. You can lose sight of all you want to do and enjoy in life. Drugs can hurt your brain and body, they’re illegal and there can be serious consequences when people get caught.

The most important thing to know is that I don’t want you to use anything that’s bad for you.”

Can I have a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve?

Some parents let their teen drink occasionally. It may be part of your culture or you may feel it helps take the mystery out of drinking while allowing you to keep a watchful eye on what is happening.

Only your family can decide what you want to do in this type of situation.

If you let your child have an occasional drink at home:

  • Make sure you discuss how giving permission fits with your family values, and be sure that your child understands.
  • Make sure your child understands that you don’t excuse or agree with underage drinking outside of your home.
  • Make sure you know the legal issues:
    • It’s legal to allow your child to drink under the age of 19 in your own home. However, if your child drinks to the point of being drunk, you, as his parent,could be charged with child endangerment.
    • It’s illegal to serve alcohol to anyone under age 19 other than your own child.

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