The “drugs and alcohol” talk ranks somewhere up there with the birds and the bees talk. Parents and children dread it the same. Parents dread this one for a couple of reasons. First, it’s uncomfortable because we never want to think of our precious babies in situations where they could be drinking or getting high. And second, we remember our teen years all-too-well.
But these talks don’t have to be stressful, embarrassing or hypocritical. Here are six ways you can talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol.
- Start early – If you ever feel uncomfortable talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, it may be because you waited too long to broach the topic. Start early and keep it age appropriate. When kids are in kindergarten and early elementary school, talk about how it’s important to use medicines responsibly and how you can get sick if you take too much. As kids get older, you can start introducing the idea of drug abuse and what it does to the body and mind.
- Remember your role – Our role as parents isn’t to dictate rules, although we’d love if that worked. Our real role is to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Just as a teacher prepares a lesson plan, you should prepare for these talks with facts. Again, keep them age appropriate and adjust the conversation as your child grows. When your kids are in high school, they’re ready to hear about the dangers of taking random drugs. “Rizzy” is one great example. You may have heard the news stories about the drug that was eating people’s skin. That was rizzy. If that’s not enough to scare your teens, nothing will.
- Keep it interesting – Try to keep your kids engaged by asking questions throughout the conversation. This will also help keep an open dialog between you and your kids about drugs and alcohol.
- Keep talking – As your children get older, they may roll their eyes and try to avoid these conversations. Keep talking. Let them know exactly how you feel about drugs and alcohol under no uncertain terms. Just try to avoid lecturing.
- Find an appropriate time – If your kids are overtired, grouchy or otherwise not themselves, it’s not the time to have this conversation. Even if you were up half the night creating pie charts and flash cards. Now isn’t the time. You want this conversation to go well, and that means your kids must be in relatively good spirits.
- Relate to current events – Unfortunately, the current opioid epidemic has left us with almost daily stories of overdose on the news. When your kids are teens and preteens, talk to them about the news stories and the role drugs played. Talk about how each case probably began with experimentation until the person became addicted. Talking about news can make the talk seem more real than keeping it an abstract talk about possible scenarios.
The most important thing about this talk is that you have it. Just keep talking. Let your kids know that you’re there to answer any questions at any time.
When did you first have this talk with your kids?