Confronting a child about drug use


How to confront my child about drug use?

To discover that your child might be on drugs knocks the wind out of most parents. Feelings of shock, anger, sadness and confusion are normal. You might feel completely overwhelmed and unsure of how to handle it. You fear the confrontation and the blow-out it will cause; fear to lose your child and lose their trust.

If you don’t think your child’s drug use is serious because it just began, consider that it only takes one overdose to die.       – American Addiction Centres

Comes home late.
Drop-in grades.
No Show.
Unexplained pills.
Out of money.
Your money disappears.
Household items vanish.
You need to search.
Friends changed.
Change in appearance.
Change in attitude.

Here are a few pointers to guide you through it:

When you first realize there is a problem

Sit down and breathe till you are calm. Undertake not to lose your temper. You are the adult and the parent.

You are in control – although it feels you are not. Your child needs you to be and stay in control. It is important that they can look up to you for help – because they have lost control over their lives.

Do not blame yourself. The first thought parents have, where did I go wrong?  Remember in life we are responsible for our own choices and their consequences. That goes for children too – although their brains are not developed enough to understand long term consequences, they understand short-term consequences.

As parents, you need to present a united front – even if you differ on any aspects of this. Talk it over beforehand and decide how you will handle the confrontation. Kids can quickly turn parents and family members against each other in times of crisis and even more so when they come from a broken (divorced /single parent) family.

Don’t blame or bad mouth each other. Before you confront the child, undertake to talk as civil and emphatically as possible – without blaming one another. Decide to stay calm throughout – it is possible. Be ready that your child might have a strong reaction to being caught out and might react with intense feelings of anger, blame, denial or shame.

Prepare yourself beforehand for how you will react and what you will say if you are called a hypocrite because of your own habits – drinking, smoking or drug use (perhaps as a teen or young adult). Know how you will explain the choices you made in your life and how it impacted you. Be honest. Be careful that your responses don’t become the justification for your child to use drugs.

Educate yourself on the type of drug you suspect your child is using.

Get in professional help – if you feel totally unequipped for the confrontation. Options are other family members, a pastor, teacher or therapist.

Pick the time of confrontation carefully to ensure there is ample time to discuss the problem. Don’t try to talk about it on your way to school in the car or if there are other people/friends present. Also, don’t confront a child that is under the influence of drugs.

Gather evidence beforehand. Search through your child’s room thoroughly and gather all evidence of use. Ensure that the child doesn’t get away by telling you he/she is just keeping ”stuff” for a friend.

Set a realistic goal for the first confrontation.  Rome wasn’t built in one day, and any form of addiction won’t resolve right away. Focus on small steps. The first step might be honesty from your child that he/she is using,  how long they have been using, who the supplier is and which drugs they are using. It will indicate the severity of the problem and the kind of intervention your child might need to work through it.

Rules and consequences have a clear idea of the rules and outcomes you’d like to establish before going into the confrontation. A child must be held accountable for what they do in all areas of their lives – here too.

When you are ready:

  • Express how much you care.
  • Present the facts to the child
  • Listen to the child – really listen
  • Discuss the problem – ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to talk
  • Lay down rules
  • Discuss the consequences of further drug use.


You can chat with an online counsellor for more guidance. Just click in LIVE CHAT to connect. The chat is text-based and you may remain anonymous.



How Can I Tell if My Child is Using Drugs? Drug Abuse Questions


Long term rehabilitation Centre:

Lion of Juda Rehabilitation Centre, Odendaalsrus, OFS, South Africa


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