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How to Talk to Your Child About Drugs

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Author: Shernide Delva

If you’re a parent, it’s important to have a conversation with your child about drug and alcohol use. After all, the only thing better than recovery is prevention right?

Today, there is scientific evidence that teens are more susceptible to addiction than adults so having discussions with your child as early as possible is more important than ever. The research shows the earlier you discuss drugs with your child, the better. Here are the suggestions on conversations to have with your child that vary as they age:

Ages 3 to 5
During the preschool years is a time to teach your child about good nutrition, proper hygiene and developing a healthy lifestyle. This is a good time to develop the decision making and problem-solving skills that become crucial later in life. Between the ages of 3 and 5:

  • Talk to your child about the joys of healthy living: Discuss how good he/she feels after eating a nutritional meal, getting enough rest, and taking care of their body.
  • Teach decision-making skills: When possible, let your child make simple choices such as what to wear and what to wear for lunch. It’s important to reinforce the ability to make decisions.
  • Teach responsibility in your child: Let your child understand how important is it to take care of their health and well being. Make activities like brushing teeth and putting toys away into fun experiences.
  • Teach your child about dangerous substance: Start informing your child about dangerous and poisonous substances such as bleach, cleaners and kitchen cleansers. Read warning labels out loud. Let your child know that sometimes warning labels do not exist and that your child should be cautious and only ingest something that you or a caregiver has given him.

Ages 5 to 8

At this age, children begin to enter school and spend time around their peers. They become more influenced by the media and the world around them. Between the ages of 5 and 8:

  • Let your child know how you feel about drug: Focus on the present. Let them know that being high on drugs make it harder to play sports, finish a puzzle or do other things they enjoy. This is a more relatable way of explaining the negatives of drugs to your child at this age.
  • Talk about drugs in the media: Understand how the media affects your child and encourage your child to ask and share concerns about the things he’s seeing and hearing.
  • Set clear rules about drug use and examine your own actions: Now is the time to explain why you don’t want them to do drugs, smoke or drink.
  • Always been a good role model: Kids follow what they see. Your actions speak louder than words.
  • Know your child’s friends and their family: Make sure the parents of your child’s friend share the same values you do about tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

Ages 8 and Up

During the youth and adolescent years, child begin to gain independence and question your authority. At this point, they need your input and advice more than ever. This is one of the most important time sin your child’s life.

  • Teach them about the rules and consequences: Kids this age need to have limits in place. Research show that children are less likely to use drugs if their parent’s have clear rules and consequences for breaking them.
  • Teach your child how to say “no” to drugs: Teach your child how to respond when offered drugs and how to get out of sticky situations. Brainstorm solutions for what they can say when offered drugs such as, “No thanks, I don’t do drugs.” Also remind your child that they should not continue friendships with those who have offered them drugs.
  • Build self-esteem in your child: Puberty can lessen your child’s confidence causing them to feel insecure and vulnerable to peer pressure. Give your child lots of positive reinforcement and praise them for their successes.
  • Base messages on facts- not fear: Children at this age need to learn facts. Find strange fun facts about drug use to reinforce your message about drugs.
  • Remain in the present: Tweens and teens aren’t concerned about what will happen later. Stay in the present. Tell them how drugs will impair their look and health or how smoking will give them “ashtray breath.” Discuss how their performance on the football field or in a school play will suffer. Staying in the present is more effective and relatable.

Teen drug use is a problem nationwide. The four guidelines for any conversation to prevent substance abuse are:

  1. Explain the risks of substance use
  2. Listen and ask questions
  3. Establish a plan
  4. Keep talking

If you’re a parent who has a child struggling with alcohol and substance abuse, seek professional help right away. Get your child on the right track before it is too late.

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