Be a Positive Role Model – It’s important to be aware of your own substance use and behaviour and mindful of how your use or behaviour might impact your child or a young person you care for. Try to model healthy coping skills to the young person in your life and invite them to join in and try the coping strategies with you. It’s also important to role model positive boundaries. Follow through with established limits that are set and try to encourage the responsibilities you want the young person to follow. Try to avoid taking action for the young person and instead try doing actions with them.
Ask for Permission Before Starting the Conversation – Before starting an important conversation with a young person, try asking, “Is now a good time to talk?” Try to stay calm when discussing substance use or problematic behaviour with your child or a young person you care for. Create a safe space where they can speak to you without feeling judgement. Try setting aside “judgement-free times” where you and the young person can speak openly without the young person being afraid of repercussions.
Listen to the Young Person’s Perspective – Try to listen to the young person’s perspective, even when it may be different from your own, and seek to understand their experiences. Addiction is complex and seeking clarification by asking questions, reading materials, and talking to a professional can help you better understand what a young person might be experiencing and where they’re coming from.
Learn About Harm Reduction – While a young person may not be willing or able to completely stop using a substance or engaging in a behaviour, ask how they might be able to minimize risks related to using or the behaviour. For example, if they are choosing to drink alcohol at a friend’s party, encourage them not to drive and to make a plan for how they can stay safe.
Get Support – Look at and reach out to community and online resources. These resources may be able to offer support to both you and the young person you care for.
Use “I” Statements Whenever Possible – When talking with a young person about their substance use or a problematic behaviour, be mindful of your tone and use “I” statements to share how you feel and your own experiences. For example, if a young person says, “It’s not a big deal, everyone my age is doing it,” you might respond with, “I’m hearing you say you don’t think this behaviour is a big deal. I wonder if I can share some changes in your behaviour I’ve noticed and that make me concerned.”