Things to talk about with young people
Here are five conversations we think are important to have with young people. These are just our suggestions based on Kerry’s experience of losing her daughter Leah and there may be other things that you want to talk about together.
What is 'normal' and what is 'safe'?
The fact is that most children and young people don’t take drugs but that they can believe that many people their own age, do take them.
- A Growing Up in North Yorkshire Survey showed that only 4% of Year 8, and 12% of Year 10 pupils said they had taken drugs.
- In a NHS Digital’s Smoking, Drinking and Drug use among Young People report which contains the results of a survey of pupils in secondary schools across England, 17% of pupils said that they had taken drugs in the last year.
Be aware that children may be more likely to take drugs when they’re in a group setting with friends, which can make the situation feel ‘safe’ and ‘normal’.
If your child has already been in situations where smoking, drinking alcohol or taking other substances hasn’t resulted in any harm there and then (either for themselves or for others), they might then think that they’re not going to be at risk in any way.
- Encourage your child to be aware of the fact that the majority of children and young people don’t take drugs.
- Talk with them about how they may want to remove themselves from a situation that they’re not okay with – Talk to Frank offer practical advice.
- Encourage them to think about the fact that taking drugs can be risky even if someone has tried them before, because there’s no guarantee of what’s in them, or how their body may respond.
What are our views about different types of drugs including alcohol?
Know that smoking and alcohol as factors, are often associated with children and young people taking other types of drugs.
Be aware that children and young people may want to experiment with new experiences for a whole range of reasons, and that they may be exposed to social situations where smoking, drinking and taking other substances are all part of that.
- Talk with your child about your and their views on what’s okay and what’s not okay when it comes to different types of substances including alcohol.
- Explore with them what their boundaries are in relation to those things, and how their views might be tested in different types of situations.
- Encourage your child to find out the truth about certain types of substances, and how they could affect their mind and body, from sources like Talk to Frank and The Mix so that if they find themselves in those types of situations, they’ve got their own facts and can make their own informed choices.
Who is being exploited?
Know that young people can use social media and apps to buy drugs, at an affordable price, often from other young people.
Be aware that the children and young people involved in the supply and selling of drugs to other young people, have often been exploited to do that, particularly by County Lines gangs. One of the reasons child abusers use children and young people in this way, is to create an environment that will seem ‘safe’ and ‘normal’ for other children and young people.
- Children and young people may not understand the scale of the harm and the damage that is caused by the illegal drugs industry and County Lines gangs, so ask your child to think about the potential long term consequences of buying drugs not only for them but others.
- Talk with them about how children and young people can be exploited using short films like Trapped-County Lines and make yourself familiar with information like that provided by the NSPCC.
- Listen to your instincts and report your concerns if you suspect your child, or any other child or young person you know, is being exploited to buy or sell drugs. Find out how on our Help and Support page.
Who can we ask for help or advice?
Know that there are a lot of people and organisations locally and nationally, working hard to reduce the harm caused to children and young people through drugs and other substances.
Be aware of organisations in York and North Yorkshire, and also nationally, who can support you and your child if you have any questions or concerns.
Talk with your child about help and support that’s available, so that they know who they can reach out to, if they want to talk something through with someone impartial.
- You can find options to choose from on our Help and Support page.
How can we help someone in an emergency?
Know that quick action in an emergency can save lives.
Be aware that your child may find themselves in circumstances where someone becomes ill or dangerously unwell through a substance they may have taken. If that happens young people may want to get away from the situation quickly, especially if they are worried about how other people including the police or paramedics, may react.
- Talk with them about what to do if they are with friends who are using any kind of substance, and one of them becomes ill or seriously unwell.
- Encourage them to always call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Tell the call handler and the emergency workers who arrive what substances the person has taken.
- Share with them the short guide to recognising and dealing with drug related emergencies from the Loop.
- Show them this short explainer from St John’s Ambulance about how to place someone in the recovery position.
All of this information could save a life.
- Also agree with your child how you will aim to react if something goes wrong, and what they can expect from you in that type of situation.
We would always encourage you to remind your child that if they are caught in possession of a controlled drug they will have committed a crime, which could have lots of different impacts for them and perhaps your family now and in the future.
You can find out more about the different types of penalties for taking, carrying, making or selling drugs on the GOV.UK website.