Talking to kids and teens about drugs and alcohol (or any touchy subject, for that matter) can be pretty intimidating for parents. But we have to put aside our pride or embarrassment; it’s our job to prepare them for the real world while ensuring they’re as healthy and successful as possible during their adolescence.
There are several ways of going about the drug talk, including:
This is a very common method (or no method at all, really) in which parents will completely steer clear of the subject, or they offer very limited information out of fear, denial or discomfort. Without the drug talk, however, children won’t have that chance to talk to their parents, from that valuable point-of-view, about what to expect when it comes to peer pressure, temptations and dangers. If they look elsewhere for that information, or don’t receive any information at all, then sheltering them can actually cause more harm than good.
Using scare tactics, some parents divulge to their kids every last detail about drugs and substance abuse, tell horrific stories or show images of the harm that drugs and alcohol can cause to the mind and body. Adolescents can be overwhelmed by too much information, especially at a younger age. Those who, from early on, know the drug details and specifics may also become immune to their abuse, and actually be more comfortable with the idea of experimentation.
Careful and ongoing
The best approach is creating an ongoing conversation between parent and child, beginning at a young age and with simple vocabulary and maturing as the child grows. Parents should be open about their own experiences with drugs, alcohol and peer pressure, be careful not to glamorize drug use, talk to their kids about what is going on in their schools and social circles, and carefully warn about the dangers of substance use.
At the same time, going overboard and offering too much information about a parent’s past drug history is also unhealthy. Kids don’t need to know the dirty details. Be honest, but be smart. Parents with a history of drug use should be honest, but sure to tell them it was a mistake with undesirable consequences.
A happy medium is always the way to go.