Don't deny it, talk about it

News coverage of schoolies celebrations is the ideal opportunity to discuss drugs with your children says youth worker Nigel Lane.
News coverage of schoolies celebrations is the ideal opportunity to discuss drugs with your children says youth worker Nigel Lane.

CHANGING societal values are making it easier for kids to access and try drugs, but parents are being urged not to blame themselves for it.

According to youth worker Nigel Lane, the fact that kids will try drugs is nothing new and generally, there were three main motivators. With the lead-up to school holidays fast approaching, parents were being urged to talk with their children and understand what has prompted them to try the illegal substances.

"I don't think anybody that becomes addicted to drugs started using them with the idea that they would become addicted," Mr Lane, a youth worker with 20 years' experience, said.

"They try drugs for three main reasons that I have found."

The first, he said, was peer pressure.

"I don't mean that everybody is saying to kids, 'try it, try it', but kids will try drugs to sort of fit in," Mr Lane said.

"For an example, it's like horror movies: they may hate horror movies but everyone is watching them and they'll go along with it and watch them but may not like it."

Mr Lane said parents' perceptions that peer pressure was bullying were incorrect, but led into the fact that kids "just want to experiment".

"Teenagers are risky, they want to try new things, and when someone says to them they can't do something, they'll show you how they did it," he said.

"Also, boredom is a factor.

"Pretty soon, teenagers will discover the social aspect of school and when they're on holidays, they'll find that that schedule isn't there and begin to think what there is for them to do."

Mr Lane said the most noticeable factor he had witnessed regarding the relationship between parents and children was the lack of communication.

He said communication was the key to parents understanding why their children try drugs.

"I understand why kids don't want to talk, but because we don't have an open communication deal, we don't talk about things in the right way," he said.

"We should be sitting down with them and saying, 'now, let's have a look'.

"I would be sitting down with my child, watching schoolies news reports and talking to them about what they are seeing.

"Look at the fun aspects because you can't deny the people there are having fun.

"Talk about what is causing them to do this because if you can have this open communication, you can discuss anything with your child, including drugs."

Mr Lance said parents had to accept that sometimes their children's behaviours and decisions were not what they want them to be, partly due to them seeking independence and rebelling against authority.

"However, we need to show them that we continue to love them unconditionally," he said.

"Suggest they take a drug test if there is any doubt or they are in denial.

"Throughout this time, it is vital that you maintain your integrity as ultimately you are their main role model."

Another important avenue parents could explore for help was support offered around the community.

"It can be socially awkward to discuss your teen's drug use but there are many places you can turn to for help," Mr Lane said.

"Your GP can make a referral, your local authority will have a youth services department, who in turn may have a drugs advice unit.

"The school will no doubt have come across this before and will have recommendations to offer."

Nigel Lane's five responses:

Love them!

Sometimes our children's behaviours and decisions are not what we would want them to be.

Talk to them!

Demonstrate that mistakes aren't final and everything is recoverable. Explain why you may be angry.

Get educated!

Do research on the specific drug, the local usage, school policies, etc.

Get help and support!

The key is both to treat the drug use and to treat the causes/reasons why they tried it in the first place.

Don't accept blame or responsibility!

At some point, they have to become adults and become accountable for their decisions and the consequences.

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