Your Kids are Already Wondering
It’s never too early to start talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, and chances are your kids are already wondering about them. Our children are bombarded daily with images and ideas about drugs and alcohol.The grocery store, television commercials, friends, school, or even seeing family members take prescribed medications, our children are constantly being given ideas about these substances. With colorful prescription medications appearing like candy, flavored tobacco and alcohol products, and street drugs catching trendy nicknames, it can seem overwhelming to shield your children from the road to abusing drugs and alcohol. However, it is not too late to help shape the way your kids view drugs and alcohol and it is never too early to start this conversation.
KidsHealth recommends starting this conversation as early as preschool, pointing out that if parents do not open this dialogue their children will seek out answers in other places. You can adjust the conversation to your child’s age, making it easy to start this talk now, no matter how old your children are. Even at a young age our children sometimes get ill and require medicine; this can be a perfect opportunity to talk to your preschooler about the benefits and dangers of medications, the importance of never taking anything that isn’t given by you, and all while using their illness as a teachable moment. Starting a new school year or a new sport can be the perfect opportunity to start this conversation with an older child. Don’t be afraid to ask your kids about drug or alcohol use in their schools or by their friends, and get them talking about anything they’ve heard or want to know.
Educate Yourself and Them
An important part of educating your kids on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse is also educating yourself. Your children will have real questions so it is important that you have honest and realistic answers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a free guide for parents online on preventing drug abuse among children. Additionally, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol:
- Set boundaries – household rules regarding drug and alcohol use should be clear and enforced.
- Be honest – base your messages to your kids on facts rather than fear.
- Stay current – the world is constantly evolving and so are drugs, so stay current and educated.
- Encourage health – get your kids involved in healthy and creative activities outside of school.
- Look for teachable moments – a movie scene, a song lyric or a celebrity overdose; use these things as an opportunity to start or continue your conversation about drugs and alcohol.
- Teach your kids the word no – teach them to stand up to peer pressure and to say no when they need to.
- Be approachable – remain calm and make it comfortable for your kids to talk to you about their lives.