Here is a script for a wise conversation parents can have with their children written by the Angelus Advisory Board together with the Foundation founder, Maryon Stewart. At the end of the conversation you can ask them to look at our other site for young people
Find a time when your child is relaxed and not rushing off somewhere – during or after a family meal, perhaps. It’s okay to let your child know that you are concerned about what you have recently learnt about legal highs. Try to encourage an open dialogue so that your child feels comfortable. Remember to let them talk too and even to interrupt you. We hope the following suggestions will help you get started.
Start by saying: “I saw something in the paper recently that worried me. I wanted to discuss it with you to see if you know anything about it. Apparently there are dozens of dangerous substances being sold as ’legal highs‘. Have you heard much about them?”
“Apparently many legal highs contain a cocktail of chemicals, which were never meant for humans to consume. I’ve found out that the short term side effects of many of these substances. And it seems no one knows what the long-term health effects are although some can be addictive. How much do you know about the risks of ’legal highs‘?”
If your child starts to open up at this point let them talk. You may get a small clue as to whether they have tried them or even an admission so be ready for a frank answer.
Go on to say: “I realise that young people are not going to stop experimenting. But I am worried they don’t know what these drugs contain or that they can have serious effects. I know it’s easy to feel you have to take something if it’s offered to you by a friend. But the truth is they probably don’t know what’s in it either. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Have you ever discussed this at school in drug lessons or with friends?”
Let your teenager answer and tell you what they know. If they look sheepish, it is possible they may already have been experimenting. Try not to appear shocked or angry. Stay calm and let them talk frankly.
Continue along the following lines: “I also discovered that the contents of each brand often varies from batch to batch so no one really knows what they are taking at any time or the effect that it might have. It must be difficult to say ‘No’ if someone offers you something to try. People might say they are fun and safe because they are legal. But if you look up the risks they include paranoia, panic attacks, palpitations, and terrible depression the following day. I am just asking you to find out some facts. Some people have even died after taking them or been hospitalised after a night out. But for your own sake and that of your friends – please think twice before trying anything like this. What do you think about the risks?”
Again, give your child time to answer and continue trying to find out what they know and think. If they ask you something to which you don’t know the answer to simply say, “That’s a really good question, I hadn’t thought of that”, or tell them you don’t know the answer but will try to find out for them.
Continue: “At this time of your life it’s really not a good idea to experiment with drugs, especially legal highs about which so little is known. Your brain and body are still developing, which means these substances can be especially dangerous. If you are worried about anything that you are offered please come and talk to me. I really care about you and want you to be safe. I couldn’t bear to lose you or for you to develop mental health problems for what seemed like a bit of harmless fun.”
Give your child time to answer again so that you have an open and frank discussion. Keep it relatively short.
End along the following lines: “I’ll try and find out more about all this so can we can talk about it again sometime soon”.