It’s not easy being “the talk” in any family. But when it comes to drugs and substance abuse, it can be even harder to know where to start – or how to keep the conversation going. Many parents feel like they’re walking on eggshells, worried that any wrong move could send their kids scurrying off and shutting down completely. If you want your children to come to you with questions or problems down the road, you need to start talking with them about drugs now.
Keep it age appropriate: One of the things that most parents struggle with “the talk” is deciding the right age to start. In reality, there is no right age to start. It depends on a host of different factors, including but not limited to your surroundings, their friends, and overall demeanor. Starting the conversation too early could scare them off, but waiting too long could let the wrong message sink in. Use your best judgment to decide when you think your child is ready to start having this type of discussion. If you have to start the conversation early on in their lives, ensure that you keep it age appropriate.
Be clear about rules and reasons: Rules without reasons are plain dictatorships. If you want your children to understand why you’re setting certain rules, be sure to explain your reasoning. When it comes to drugs and substance abuse, they must know the dangers and risks associated with these activities. Be clear about what is and is not acceptable in your household. If you have personal experience with addiction, share that story with them – but only if you feel comfortable doing so.
Encourage questions: Asking questions is a sign of engagement, which is exactly what you want from your kids. If they’re asking questions, it means they’re listening and trying to understand. It also shows that they trust you enough to come to you with their inquiries. Encourage their questions, no matter how difficult they may be to answer. This will help foster an environment of openness and honesty between you and your child.
Talk about consequences and not punishment: Fear of being grounded or punishment can only go so far. When your children know the potential consequences of their actions, they’re more likely to think twice before engaging in risky behavior. Discuss the dangers of drugs and substance abuse with your kids. Let them know that there are real-world implications for their actions. This will help them better understand the severity of the issue.
Be a good role model: Parents always tell their kids to “do as I say, not as I do.” But when it comes to drugs and substance abuse, that’s not good enough. You need to be a good role model for your children if you want them to stay away from these activities. If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Don’t use drugs in front of them. And most importantly, don’t lie to them about your drug use. Be honest with your kids, and they’ll be more likely to be honest with you.
Explain Addiction: Addiction is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp, let alone a child. But they must understand addiction and how it can take over someone’s life. Be sure to explain that addiction is a disease and that it’s not something people can stop doing if they want to. Help them understand that addiction is complex and has many factors at play. This will help them be more compassionate towards those struggling with addiction and give them a better understanding of the risks involved with drugs and substance abuse.
Emphasize Responsibility in Young Adults: Young adults are at a higher risk for addiction than children or teens. This is because their brains are still developing and more likely to take risks. Be sure to emphasize responsibility when talking to your young adult children about drugs and substance abuse. Let them know that they need to be careful about their choices, as they could have serious implications down the road. Help them understand that they’re not invincible and need to be mindful of the risks involved in drug use.
Keep the conversation going: The talk should not be a one-time event. It should be an ongoing conversation that you have with your children for most of their teenage years. As they get older, the discussion will change and evolve. But it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Check-in with them regularly about their thoughts and feelings on drugs and substance abuse. And be sure to let them know you’re always available to talk if they need to.
Listen: This one is probably the most important. Listening shows that you care about what they have to say. It also allows you to better understand their thoughts and feelings on the subject. Remember, this conversation is not just for them – it’s for you too. Learning more about their views on drugs and substance abuse can help you tailor future discussions (or interventions) accordingly.
The bottom line is that having “the talk” with your kids will not be easy. But it’s important that you have it nonetheless. Being clear, honest, and open with your children can create a foundation of trust and communication that will last a lifetime.