“If you are experiencing this, I would say reach out to somebody” Suzanne Harrington

“They feel really upset talking about the parent that’s drinking because they love their parents and they feel it’s a sense of betrayal, talking to me about something that their mum or dad is doing. So it’s really about, in the beginning, just building up that relationship with the young person so they start to know that there’s no judgement.” Sue Kleinman, Back on Track

In the third in our series of live discussions about parenting and alcohol, Daisy talked to Sue Kleinman, Family Worker from Back on Track, and mother and daughter Suzanne Harrington and Lola about their experiences. Suzanne is a recovering alcoholic and, like many others, lapsed during the pandemic. She described her drinking years as like being on “an endless hamster wheel” and that those feeling the same should reach out for help.

Lola talked about her open discussions with her mum about her past drinking, “It’s not some secret thing, which I think is so important”.

Read the transcript: When does a parent’s drinking affect children?

⭐️ You can see all the discussions from our series and find where to get help and support here: Raising Teens Live: Families and Alcohol

Help and support

Back on Trackbrighton-hove.gov.uk/back-track-brighton-hove, support for families in Brighton & Hove when a parent is drinking too much.

Oasis Project is on Twitter @Oasis_Project_, on Facebook facebook.com/OasisPrjctand Instagram @oasis_project_. Their website is at: oasisproject.org.uk
Also Young Oasis provides a place of safety and support for children and young people who have been affected by a family member’s drug or alcohol misuse.
Oasis Project also links with One Stop, Brighton’s specialist midwifery team for pregnant women/people where alcohol or other substances are a concern. They offer care and support by a multi-disciplinary team.

RU-OK? offers free confidential advice, guidance, support and information on drugs, alcohol and sexual health for under 18s in Brighton & Hove, their parents / carers or concerned others.

NACOA, National Association for Children of Alcoholics, offers advice and information, including a helpline 0800 358 3456, message boards and online chat.

Al-Anon and Al-Ateen offer help for adults and teens affected by someone else’s drinking.

Young Carers offer one to one support in Brighton & Hove including group and respite activities and advocacy and support with services. The referral form can be found here: carershub.co.uk as well as further information about the project. If anyone would like to discuss a young carer or a young person themselves would like to talk to somebody, their number is 01273 746222 and there is someone in the office almost every day from 9-5. They have no waiting list for support.

The Children’s Society suport for Young Carers – they “help them find balance, give them space to enjoy being young and support them into adulthood so they can pursue their dreams outside of caring.”

This guest post was written for us by Mose, who is one of the many young voices who have spoken to us and shared their thoughts after the death of Sarah Everard.

Make (Good) Trouble promotes dialogue from and between young people and authorities to foster positive change.

How I feel about Sarah Everard, the vigil, and the police response. 

First off, I’d like to say, like a lot of women and girls, Sarah Everard’s death took a toll on me in a way I didn’t realise it would. I was reminded of every time I felt petrified for my life, which is a lot more than I like to admit. This tragedy forced me to face those demons again. It brought me to tears and I felt myself fall down a pit of vulnerability and powerlessness. I felt so, so alone and scared. It was a reality check; a harsh truth slapped in my face that I have never and may never be safe as a girl, a woman, and sadly, that I am just one of the lucky ones. 

The vigil was needed. End of story. It was needed for everyone. Our shared pain needed comforting. The police, had no right to cancel the vigil for a woman who’s life was taken away by one of their own. No right. They should have stood with us, side by side to show they understood the pain felt by everyone, maybe then would we be more sympathetic to the good police officers. But they didn’t. Police officers man-handled women at a vigil for a woman kidnapped and killed brutally by a police officer. How they couldn’t see what a mistake they were making, I’ll never understand. It was very easy to predict that by cancelling the vigil, people were still going to go. And it was equally as easy to predict that the way the police decided to deal with the vigil would lead to protests, more crowds and risk of people catching coronavirus, which they so desperately claim is the reason why the vigil had to be cancelled. Their plan backfired massively. If the vigil went ahead as planned, with the safe planning in place by the organisers of Take Back These Streets, we would have had some closure, the ability to pay our respects, say goodbye, and to not feel so alone.  There would be no protests days after, because we would have dealt with our feelings positively and healthily. What the police has done is shown they don’t care, and with that, the divide between police and citizens stretches even further. 

Lastly, I’d just like to say, the limitations the government desire to put on protests, which are a basic human right, is madness. Time limits, noise reductions, more intrusive methods, etc, etc. And for what? Because we’re disrupting the community? We’re disrupting the police’s day? That’s the point of a protest. This bill will not work. The people will fight even harder. And just like what happened at Sarah Everard’s vigil and the protests that followed, will happen again and again. We will not be silenced and our spirits will not be broken. People will keep shouting, keep chanting, keep marching, bigger and louder than ever before. Because this is our life, and we have human rights and we stand together to defend our rights. 

An image Mose posted on Instagram after the news of Sarah Everard’s death

Anne Longfield’s final speech today as Children’s Commissioner for England put children front and centre and asked the government if it is “serious about ‘building back better’ and ‘levelling up’?” Anne had a lot to say about the need for better care for vulnerable young people whose problems have been exacerbated by Covid.

What really struck a chord with us was Anne’s point that “the system needs to help professionals develop relationships with children.” And whilst this might seem like a no-brainer, she also said, “I have been shocked to discover that many officials have never met any of the children they are responsible for.”

This point is fundamentally at the heart of Make (Good) Trouble’s ethos, which is to give young people a voice, and to give them agency in their own lives and their futures. Young people are co-creators on all our projects, giving them new and transferable skills in digital media production in the process.

Stats on England's left behind children from Anne Longfield's final speech
Stats on England’s left behind children, slide from Anne Longfield’s final speech
Anne Longfield’s final speech as Children’s Commissioner for England

During her six-year tenure as Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne has been a brilliant champion for children. She made time to connect with Make (Good) Trouble and was interviewed by our young reporter Lola, and later by a group of teens who answered Anne’s questions.

Lola interviews Anne Longfield

Anne’s focus has been to listen to the voices of young people, and particularly vulnerable children such as those in care or those in detention “in secure children’s homes, secure training centre, young offenders institutions, mental health wards and other residential placements, either for their own safety or the safety of others”. Her focus on building up good data on children has shone a light on those in poverty or at risk of being drawn into gangs and county lines. “Vulnerable children stay in the ‘its too difficult’ box”, she said, adding, “people in charge of the system, don’t understand the needs of children”.

Impacts of the pandemic on children: slide from Anne Longfield’s final speech
Liv, Jude, Lola and Gemma answer Anne Longfield’s questions

If you have time, we also recommend you listen to this podcast episode where Anne speaks to children involved with Football Beyond Borders – a fantastic organisation who help children who are struggling at school by using their passion for football to engage them and improve their life chances.

Find out more about the work of the Children’s Commissioner:

The Children’s Commissioner of England website
Follow Anne Longfield on Twitter
Follow The Children’s Commissioner on Twitter
Follow The Children’s Commissioner on Facebook
Subscribe to The Children’s Commissioner on YouTube

By Carl Scott, Youth Worker.

Some parents wonder when, where and how to start a conversation about cannabis.  They ask themselves and others: ‘What age is the right age to start talking about drugs?’  Or, ‘Should I ask the questions, or should I wait until my child ask me something?’  Every child is different, so there is no ‘right age’ to start talking about cannabis.  But it makes sense to have your first conversation before your child is likely to try using cannabis.  That way you establish a connection and share your expectations before they are exposed to any risk associated with cannabis. 

Responding to your child’s cannabis use 

Discovering (or suspecting) your child has been using cannabis or any other drug can be scary, especially if you feel that it is not just part of ‘normal’ experimentation.  While it can be tough to resist the urge to go wild with worry or anger, the best thing you can do for your child is to respond responsibly.  It is important not to let your concerns harm the relationship and the trust you have with your child. 

1) Stay Calm 

Yelling and making threats will not help the situation. If anything, ‘freaking out’ will give your child another reason to hide things from you.  Searching their room or personal belongings may harm the trust between you and your child. 

2) Talk to your child 

Sit down with them and tell them how you feel.  If they are high, wait until the effects have worn off so you can have a more meaningful discussion.  Say ‘I’m worried because…or ‘I’m afraid because…’. Then give your child an opportunity to express their own feelings.  Make sure they know you are really listening.  And allow them time to think things through before speaking. 

Learn why your child is using drugs. Find out what led them to try cannabis in the first place. Was it because their friends were using it and they wanted to fit in?  Was it for the ‘buzz’ that comes from having an altered state of consciousness?  Was it because they wanted a way to escape? Was it to manage symptoms of anxiety or other mental health problems?  If so, you might want to consider seeking help from a mental health professional.  It may also be helpful to find out how often your child uses cannabis.

Young people use cannabis because they feel it benefits them.  The most common reasons a youth uses cannabis are:

To feel good – young people may use cannabis to feel more social, celebrate or relax.  Using cannabis to feel good is associated with moderate use.  There is still some risk, as there is in life in general.

To feel better – cannabis can help to reduce anxiety in social situations or when trying to connect with others or reduce symptoms of chronic anxiety or depression.  If young people use cannabis regularly to deal with troubling feelings, then use may become problematic.

To do better – some young people feel pressure to improve their performance, ‘get going’ or ‘keep going’. 

To explore – Young people may use cannabis out of curiosity or to ‘walk on the edge’, trying something new and different. 

If your child is engaging in risky activities such as using cannabis at school or selling cannabis, it is important to talk with them about why they are engaging in these activities so that you can assess the level of risk, help them think through the consequences and identify alternatives.  For example, if your child is selling cannabis to make money, talk with them about safer ways to earn an income. 

Quick tips for safer cannabis use

  • Avoid smoking cannabis with tobacco.
  • Avoid deep inhalation or breath-holding. 
  • Use a vaporizer if smoking cannabis, use joints rather than water bongs. 
  • Use a small piece of rolled unbleached cardboard as a filter to prevent burns.
  • Only use cannabis purchased from a trusted source. 

Signs of risky or harmful cannabis use

  • Using regularly at an early age daily or near daily use.
  • Using during school or work.
  • Using as a major form of recreation
  • Using to cope with negative moods
  • Experiencing chronic coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing or psychotic symptoms. 

Long term effects of cannabis use 

  • Decline in IQ (up to 8 points if prolonged use started in adolescence)
  • Poor school performance and higher chance of dropping out.
  • Impaired thinking and ability to learn and perform complex tasks.
  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Addiction (about 9% of adults and 17% of people who started smoking as teens become addicted)
  • Potential development of opiate abuse
  • Relationship problems, violence, antisocial behaviour including stealing money or lying
  • Financial difficulties
  • Increased welfare dependence
  • Greater chances of being unemployed or not getting good jobs. 

This post was written by Carl Scott, Youth Worker
Follow Carl on Instagram @carl_scott_official

Carl Scott

Help & Advice

Take a look at our Help page for advice and information on drugs and alcohol

We talked about weed and drug-taking with experts Toby Chown from Oasis Project, Carl Scott from Reboot Sussex, Luci Hammond from RU-OK? and PC Joe Davies from Sussex Police.

If you’re concerned about a young person getting involved in drugs or county lines, getting advice before talking to them can really help. Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.