Sooner rather than later, it’s going to be time to talk to our children about drug use. Just because the topic is a sensitive one, it doesn’t mean bringing it up to them should be as scary as we’d all think. We have frequent opportunities in our day to day lives where we can address the subject organically and without too much discomfort for either parent or child. Listed below are guidelines for ways we can initiate a dialogue with our children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse regardless of their age group.
We can introduce the topic of drug use to our children by as early as kindergarten or first grade. During this time in a child’s life, the best way to handle this discussion is by using teachable moments. These moments can be anything from giving our child prescription medication for a fever to seeing a commercial on TV for alcohol or even witnessing a family member smoking a cigarette. We need to use these moments as springboards to offer up detailed examples in understandable terms. By doing this we can explain exactly what drugs are and what they should be used for, as well as the potentially harmful side effects. Our children are the most observant of our behaviors and guidance at this age, so this is the best time to build a solid foundation for future discussions.
The older our kids get, the more we can transition from telling them what we think to asking them open-ended questions regarding their own thoughts on drug use. Children are more willing to have these honest and open dialogues with us in the years leading up to their teens, so we need to use this time to nurture that communication. At this stage, we want to make sure we get kids thinking about the subject and the consequences and remind them that we’re always available to discuss any concerns that they may have in a safe and welcoming environment.
Once our teens are in high school, their awareness and access to people using or talking about drugs will start to increase. By this point, we should have already established a clear understanding with them about what our expectations are when it comes to drug and alcohol use. We can create and discuss simple, direct agreements about how we expect them to behave and the repercussions of their actions. While we want to do our best to discourage our kids from hanging out with anyone who might participate in underage drinking or smoking, we need to also make sure that we remind them that they can feel safe coming to us if they end up in a situation where they need our help, no questions asked.
If we can promise to do our best to be prepared and willing to have these discussions with our kids, then we should feel confident that they’ll turn to us if they ever have questions or problems. If you don’t know where to turn to get answers, or if you need assistance finding a way to open up a dialogue with your children, please visit the following websites for countless free articles and advice.