As back to school season rolls in, families may be struggling to open discussions about substance use with their children.

At Scarborough Health Network (SHN), we hope to help parents support their kids as they return to the classroom, and how they can include potential substance use in their dialogues. 

Tasha Castagnier-Seery, manager of SHN’s Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic (RAAM), in collaboration with the Outpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health team has some advice to families gearing up for September. 

“It’s important to provide your child a safe and judgement-free space to talk about their concerns,” she said. “Take advantage of teachable moments and get insights into the pressures they may be receiving.”

Catagnier-Seery says parents should keep the following tips in mind when talking to their children about difficult subjects:

  • Be Curious – Ask your kids what they know about drugs or alcohol or what they have learned in school or what are their friends talking about 
  • Have an Open door policy by maintaining regular, ongoing conversations with your children about substance use
  • Express support – Ensure that they know that they can call you for help no matter how much trouble they think they are in 
  • Provide a comfortable space – don’t condemn, offer support and compassion 
  • Be honest, about your experiences and maintain a positive and relaxed atmosphere 
  • Be patient – they may not want to talk at the same time you do – It’s okay to take a break if you or your child is feeling uncomfortable or needs space to reflect 
  • Talk about personal safety such as the importance of knowing what drugs and alcohol they are using, where they got it, how much is too much
  • Work as a team with your child to develop and achieve common goals 
  • Acceptance – there will be struggles and difficulties but be on board, but show that you care and you’re here to help them through this

SHN’s RAAM clinic provides barrier-free access to medical treatment for addictions and same-day counselling, including:

  • Assessment of substance use disorders and review of treatment options
  • Medications for alcohol, opioid, and/or substance use disorders
  • Overdose prevention education and take-home naloxone kits
  • Referrals to community-based addiction support services as needed
  • Management of alcohol and opioid withdrawal

SHN’s philosophy for treatment and care includes a client-centred, trauma-informed approach, without judgment, in a healing environment. 

“Everyone is welcome here, even if they are not sure if they have a substance use problem, or are simply not ready to stop using alcohol or drugs,” she said. 

“The first step in identifying substance abuse is recognize and accept. We want to pave the way to recovery,” added Catagnier-Seery. “We are here to support our community, and provide them with the care they need, when they need it – instead of waiting for referrals or appointments.”

Do you know someone who needs support? Drop in or call our RAAM clinic at:

RAAM clinic

SHN General hospital
3050 Lawrence Ave. E., Scarborough
Crockford Pavilion, Ground floor
Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 9 to 11 a.m.
Phone: 416-431-8269
Fax: 416-431-8291