Kids are the most precious, vivacious, loving bundles of joy that captivate us with their unadulterated innocence and unfiltered communication. As they grow, they begin to strive and display their needs for independence. These little humans are sponges that make decisions based on what they see, hear, learn, and are told to do from others. Most parents understand that the decisions we make today directly impact the future of our children.
Today, drugs and alcohol are a major epidemic in our society. Mitigating this gloomy crisis begins with education and prevention. Here are some tips on how to educate and discuss drugs and alcohol with your kids.
Open communication is key.
It is vital that you maintain an open line of communication with your child. Discuss substance abuse consistently and create an open dialogue to educate and explain the harms excessive drug and alcohol abuse can cause. Having multiple conversations on this subject will reaffirm the importance of substance abuse prevention and reinforce the importance of this topic.
Every child grows up with an innate idea of what is “good” or “bad”, especially when we set the example and discuss these subjects with our children. The best way to help our children – on a cognitive level – is to teach them what is harmful and what is beneficial. A productive way to discuss drugs and alcohol is to educate your kids on how drugs may harm their bodies and those around them. If your child is younger, discuss healthy living and the important role our bodies play in getting us to where we need to go.
Keep the conversation casual.
An open line of communication is crucial in setting the foundation for talking to your children about substance abuse. Maintaining a casual approach and establishing trust with your children is the most successful way to encourage a healthy conversation about drugs and alcohol. As your children grow up and are exposed to drugs and alcohol – they will be more likely to come and discuss what is going on in their lives and talk about potential pressures or stress they are facing. Discussing common scenarios and preparing your child for what potential situations may arise – will better prepare your child handling risky or tempting situations.
It’s never too soon to start talking about drugs and alcohol with your kids. It is best to begin discussing substance abuse as soon as your child starts asking questions and showing curiosity – no matter what age. Use this age-by-age guide to outline conversations about drug and alcohol abuse.
- Explain the importance of taking care of his/her body. Educate your little one how our bodies help us get to where we want to go and we must keep them healthy.
- Teach your child not to drink out of random glasses or eat random foods.
- Educate your child on medicines and how they are only taken when absolutely necessary. Explain that medicines are only given by Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa, and other approved caregivers.
Kindergarten – Third Grade
Make sure your discussions on drugs and alcohol are factual and based on the present.
- At this age, children do not really understand future consequences. Keep your conversations centered around the immediate consequences of drugs and alcohol.
- Talk to your kids about drug/alcohol-related messages that your children may be seeing on TV, hear on the radio, and other entertainment sources. Be sure to have discussions when the media glamorizes drug use and advertises ideas that conflict with the lessons you’ve taught them on drugs or alcohol.
- Encourage your children to ask you questions about things they see/hear other places. This will open the communication for you to be able to discuss what is and is not okay.
Fourth – Sixth Grade
Pre-teens are able to understand the reasons for rules and actually appreciate having discipline and structure in place. Puberty is a very vulnerable time in your child’s life. This period of time can be tricky and can heighten the risk of exploring drugs and alcohol to escape their insecure and doubtful feelings.
- Make sure your child is aware of household rules and expectations. Enforce proper consequences if your child does not obey the rules within your home.
- Act out scenes and roleplay situations in which your child may be offered drugs and alcohol.
- Equip your child with ways to respond and removes his/herself from risky and potentially harmful situations.
- Encourage your child to maintain relationships with children who are also drug/alcohol free.
- Continue to practice positive reinforcements and let your child know how special they are. During this time it is important for your child to know how valuable he/she is.
Seventh Grade – Senior Year
As your child continues to gain more independence, it is vital that you maintain an open line of communication, enforce rules and consequences, and continuously be present in their lives.
- Talk to your teen about how drinking alcohol is an adult privilege and responsibility. Also, it is important that you stress the importance of moderation. Clarify that alcohol abuse is not appropriate or beneficial to anyone – not even adults who can legally drink.
- Make sure your child understands that alcohol is also considered a drug. Enforce the negative physical consequences of excessive alcohol abuse and how that may affect his/her physical appearance. (Teenagers begin to hyperfocus on outward appearance and this concept may encourage them to think twice.)
- Educate your teen on different substances and the negative consequences of substance abuse.
- Discuss how substance abuse can ruin your teens’ chances of getting into the college he/she is applying to. Also, talk about how substance abuse can destroy relationships with friends/family, dreams/goals, and how the effects of substance abuse are potentially fatal.
- Be sure to discuss news related stories on drug/alcohol-related tragedies. Discuss the victims left behind in the wake of substance abuse. Also, talk about the heightened threat of jail and/or prison.
- Positive reinforcement matters, especially with vulnerable teens. Compliment your teen on all of his/her achievements. Let your teen know how much you appreciate them and how proud you are of the young woman/man they are becoming. Teens still strive for their parent’s approval.
Legacy Healing Center is dedicated to providing current and factual health information in the substance abuse industry. Our mission is to spread awareness around the disease of addiction for individuals seeking help.