Keep Having Conversations with Kids

Strong relationships and family connections support your children to make healthy choices and feel confident, especially when faced with decisions about important topics like substance use.

In conversations with our children, it’s best to respond without judgment or your own negative feelings. This opens the door to further conversation. The goal is to help your child feel comfortable to continue talking without fear of getting in trouble. Creating a pattern of open and honest communication will be helpful as they grow older and face challenges and difficult decisions, such as using alcohol, cannabis and other drugs. Some things you can say to keep the conversation going are:

  • I see.
  • Really?
  • Is that so!
  • You did, huh?

Be even more direct in inviting them to say more:

  • Tell me about it.
  • Go ahead, I’m listening.
  • What’s your take on it?
  • Tell me the whole story.
  • This seems like something important to you.

Conversation Stoppers

There are many types of responses that may get in the way of helpful conversation. Even though they may not literally stop the conversation, they can deflect it in directions that may not be very helpful.

Some of the responses that can take a conversation in an unhelpful direction include:

  • Ordering, directing, commanding - Example: You have to phone me if you’re going to be late coming home from school.
  • Warning, cautioning, threatening - Example: You better be home on time if you know what’s good for you.
  • Giving advice, making suggestions or providing solutions - Example: Why don’t you ask Mandy to play at our house?
  • Persuading with logic, arguing, lecturing - Example: If you learn to take responsibility for your actions, you’ll grow up to be a responsible adult.
  • Saying what they should do, moralizing - Example: You should know better.
  • Disagreeing, judging, criticizing, blaming - Example: You're not thinking clearly.
  • Agreeing, approving, praising - Example: You're right, at least you tried.
  • Shaming, ridiculing, labelling - Example: You're so inconsiderate!
  • Interpreting or analyzing - Example: You didn’t want to tell me where you were going because you and Mandy were up to no good.
  • Reassuring, sympathizing, consoling - Example: I know, school can be pretty boring sometimes.
  • Questioning or probing - Example: Why did you want to go to Mandy’s house and not ours?
  • Withdrawing, distracting, humouring, or changing the subject - Example: Just forget about it.

Some of these responses may be appropriate in small doses and in the right contexts. But as with so many things in life – not too much, not too often is a good rule to follow when it comes to having positive conversations with your kids.

For More Information

For more information about how to talk to your kids about substance use and overdose, see the following parenting articles:


Last Reviewed: December 2016

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