Being a mother or a father is stressful. It can be very hard to keep up with the dangers and risks kids face every day in order to try and protect them. Nowadays, children are more exposed to drugs than ever. They see them on t.v or in the movies, where they are often portrayed as normal, or even fun. There is not enough talk about how drug addiction is a disease, and that far from being cool it is actually very dangerous. Studies show that 78% of US teenagers have tried alcohol, and over 42% have used illicit drugs. Many years ago, I was one of those teenagers.
I started drinking alcohol when I was just a child, only 9 years old. Then, I became acquainted with drugs at 13. At first it was marijuana, but soon enough I was consuming more hardcore drugs. Even though there were some pretty evident changes in my behavior, it wasn’t until I was years into drug abuse that my family talked to me about drugs or alcohol. It was a big taboo back then, and my parents were scared about how to deal with it. I don’t blame them for my addiction. They did the best they could with what they had. But now that I am 10 years sober I realize the importance of talking to kids about drugs from a young age. It can make a big difference in preventing them from being in a dangerous situation.
It is important to give your children the right information regarding delicate topics such as this one. Talking openly to them about drugs and alcohol can help build trust between you and they will feel more comfortable coming to you if they have any questions. If you’re planning on having the “drug talk” with your children, take a look at these tips on how to do it the best way.
Do Some Research
The first step before talking to your children about drugs is to educate yourself on the matter. Do some research about different types of drugs and their effects on the mind and the body. You can’t tell your children that drugs and alcohol are dangerous if you don’t know why. Understanding the differences between each type of drug, what they look like, the consequences it may bring, etc, you’ll be prepared in case your kids have any questions.
After stating the facts about these substances, it is important to be clear on your personal view of drugs. Explain why you think they should not use illegal drugs, why you think this would be irresponsible behavior and discuss the harms drugs can cause. Avoid scare tactics like telling them that “marijuana will kill you”. It will be more effective to discuss drugs realistically and share actual facts with them.
Keep it Age Appropriate
An important factor you should take into consideration when talking to your children about drugs and alcohol is their age. The way you approach them and the terms you will use will vary depending on how old they are.
Ages 4 to 7
This is the age when you start teaching them about the importance of self-care. Talking to them about nutrition and personal hygiene can lead to the topic of drugs and other behaviors that can be bad for them. For example, when you give them a vitamin you can explain to them that it is important to take it because it makes them healthier and stronger. But also tell them that they should only take what you give to them because there are other drugs that can harm them. If they get curious about any medicine you take, explain that you should only take medicines that have your name on them or that your doctor has chosen for you. If you take medicine that doesn’t belong to you, it can make you sick.
Ages 8 to 12
This is an age in which kids tend to give their friend’s opinion a lot of importance. It is also the time when they start questioning their parent’s views and decisions. A good way to start the conversation is to ask them what they think about drugs and alcohol in a nonjudgmental way. Show them that you value their opinions and that you are open to any questions. If they have false information about drugs, gently give them the correct facts. Explain that it is easy to come across wrong information, but they can always check with you. Starting a dialogue with your children at this age helps keep the door open as they get older, more curious about the world and less inclined to share their thoughts with their parents.
Ages 13 and Up
Adolescence can be a difficult time to communicate with your children, but it is the most crucial time to do so. Kids this age are likely to know other kids who use alcohol or drugs, so you have to be prepared to answer more specific questions about these substances. Try to understand your kid’s feelings about drugs, but also use these conversations to explain the dangers and legal issues of consuming these substances. Be straightforward about your expectations of them and how you want them to behave in situations that involve alcohol and drugs. Let them know that your main concern is their well-being and that you are always available to talk about any questions or thoughts they may have regarding this topic.
Talking to your children about drugs from a young age can help them make better decisions throughout their life. When I was growing up I didn’t have access to any reliable information regarding this topic, and maybe if I had I wouldn’t have struggled with addiction all those years. If you don’t talk to them about drugs and alcohol today, you may have to talk to them about drug and alcohol detox and recovery tomorrow. And, trust me, if there’s anything you can do to avoid that, you should.
Do you know any other tips about how to talk to kids about drugs and alcohol? If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.