Lets Talk

Encouraging Thoughtful Conversations With Your Young People

What is Keep Calm and Talk?

Keep Calm and Talk is about encouraging thoughtful conversations between parents, carers and young people. It aims to increase knowledge and understanding about lifestyle choices and addresses issues related to drinking, drug-use and smoking.

We recognise that having meaningful conversations isn’t always easy, especially with the many shifts and changes during adolescence. We hope this campaign provides some useful ideas.

Whilst most young people in Brighton and Hove don’t smoke, drink or take drugs, the number that do is higher than the national average.

The campaign has been developed by YMCA Right Here and Brighton & Hove City Council’s Public Health Team, through listening to and involving young people, parents and carers.

Here you will find useful conversation starters, links to facts and support, as well as some ‘overheard’ real life conversations. Let’s get talking, questioning and supporting each other to help keep our young people safe and happy.

If you have any questions or thoughts about this campaign let us know.

What is Keep Calm and Talk?

Start your own conversation...

It’s not always easy to find ways to talk about substance use with teenagers, but young people and parents and carers have told us it can really help so together with the volunteers at YMCA Right Here, we have put together some ideas and short videos to help.

It seems natural to want to pick up a conversation in relation to a concern or incident that your young person may have been involved in, such as your teenager coming home late ‘smashed’. Although it’s important to respond at these times with any immediate support they need and clarity around expectations and boundaries, they aren’t usually the best time for a longer chat about use, misuse, harm and keeping safe. Find links to services for support here.


Talking about the weather is a natural and everyday conversation that we have, we think it would help to talk about drinking, drugs and smoking in the same way. This might encourage myth busting and finding support when it’s needed.

So notice a moment or unexpected opportunity. This could be over a meal, when watching television, on a drive or going for a walk. Talking side by side rather than face to face can make a real difference. It can be useful to pick up a storyline or news item, especially if it’s about a celebrity or someone your young person is interested in. Show interest rather than judgement in the topic, ‘I wonder what’s going on there?’, ‘What do you think?’, ‘Is it something that happens in Brighton and Hove?’, ‘Is this something you are worried about?’

Recognising young peoples knowledge and understanding...

Researching into what substances are used locally will increase your confidence plus young people are more likely to listen if they think your knowledge is accurate. Use trusted sources, see SMOKING, DRINKING, DRUGS section below.

However, remember they may have their own experience and expertise so avoid talking at them, but ask them questions; ‘Do you know about cannabis use locally?’, ‘Could you or your friends hang-out or go to gigs or parties and not drink, smoke or take drugs?’ ‘… How would that work?’

Keeping it Real...

Young people have said they feel their parents / carers are holding back during these conversations, so try to be clear in relation to your own views and behaviours and why you feel that way. What seems to matter to young people is ‘owning’ what you say, explain your views and allow your young person to question and respond.

What do young people say?

1) Keep Calm, don’t shout or get angry especially if we’re asking for help.

2) Think about role-modelling, how might your actions impact us.

3) Keep the conversations going! Saying ‘no’ sounds firm and clear but what does it mean, how can it be upheld, what are the alternatives?

It's not what you say, It's how you say it...

- Set clear expectations, boundaries and consequences.

- Use quiet, non-judgmental, caring tones.

- Focus on the actions or behaviours that worry you.

Here are some phrases and questions young people and parent/carers told us were helpful. If you don’t know what to say or do, just admit this. They’ll appreciate your honesty. What parents and carers have very clearly told us is…

LET’s TALK more parent/carer to parent/carer, schools to parents/carers, people to people, communities to communities!!

‘I’m here to listen, when you feel ready to talk.’

It's not what you say, It's how you say it...


‘I love and care about you, no matter how difficult things might be or feel, I’m here with you.’

‘What would be helpful for you?’

‘This is worrying me because I care about you, when could be a good time for us to chat?’

‘I need you to help me understand what’s going on as I’m worried.’

‘Can you try and tell me what’s going on?’

‘Would you know what to do if you or your friend has taken something and seems unwell?’

Get the Facts

It’s useful to check out what you know about smoking, drinking and drugs. This can make having conversations easier, encourage us to question or challenge what we hear, and help us stick with clear expectations and boundaries.

Get the Facts
Get Support...

Get Support...

1. Drink, Drugs and Smoke Webpage - This is a complementary webpage for young people which you can tell them about to help them get advice, facts and support. Click Here.

2. ru-ok? - substance misuse support. A Brighton and Hove service for families and young people, offering free confidential advice, guidance, support and information around alcohol or drug use. Click Here.

3. Brighton and hove wellbeing service - The Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service is a free NHS service for all ages from 4 years and upwards in Brighton and Hove. Includes self-referral process and online counselling services. Click Here.

4. Family Information Service. The FIS in Brighton and Hove offers a wide range of information and advice on childcare and services that can support families. Click Here.

5. Worried that a child might be being exploited? Know the signs to look out for if a young person is being exploited and find out how to report it. Click Here.

6. Change, Grow, Live Brighton and Hove recovery service. Drug and alcohol service for over 18-s in Brighton & Hove. Click Here.

7. Childline - Family Relationships Information and Support. Click Here.