Talking to Your Kids About Drugs and Addiction
It would be nice if we lived in a world where we were confident that our children would never be tempted by illegal drugs. We could rest easy knowing that they would be safe during their teen years too. But in the world we live in today, that’s just not so. Anyone paying attention would know that talking to your kids about drugs is important and necessary.
Now more than ever, children and teens from all walks of life are being tempted to use illegal drugs. You may feel like you live in too good of a neighborhood, or maybe you just feel like it won’t happen in your family. Both of those assumptions are just unrealistic, and the current opioid epidemic makes a good case for this.
The opioid epidemic claimed more lives than the Vietnam war in 2016 alone; it continues to grow as stronger synthetic opioids are pushed onto the black market and people from all walks of life are being affected. Mothers and fathers who thought that this epidemic would never touch their lives are waking up to the nightmare of it becoming a reality.
Ultimately, the best thing that we can do for our children is engage in open conversations about the dangers of drugs, as well as create an atmosphere of trust where in the future, if our children are ever in a situation where they happen to be offered drugs, they can trust enough to tell us.
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How to Approach the Subject
Recognizing that each parenting style is different, it’s ultimately up to you on how and when you start talking to your children about the dangers of drugs. The rule of thumb is it’s usually recommended that you start opening up the conversations with your children about drugs around age 10. Of course, you don’t want to get into too much detail or scare them, but you want them to know the dangers involved.
By age 12, your child needs to know what drugs are, how they affect the lives of those who choose to take them, the potential for addiction, and most importantly, how to say no if they are offered drugs by their peers. That being said, the conversation for peer pressure in general should start in their early years, before you even mention the concept of drugs to your children. You want to be sure that your children are confident and have good boundaries with others.
When you start to talk to your children about the dangers of drugs, they may have a lot of questions; you can answer these however you deem appropriate. Each year as they get older, you can continue to educate your child and have talks with them on a regular basis. No matter how you choose to do it, you want to make sure that you’re preparing your child for the highly probable drug related peer pressure that is to come in the teenage years.
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Home Life Matters
Building emotional ties and resiliency, paying attention to how they’re feeling and their social interactions.
One of the most important things to remember, is that awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol starts at home. You want to do the best that you can to make your child aware of the things they will likely face when they enter into middle and high school. You want your child to be able to come to you with anything.
When your child has a question or wants to talk about the dangers of drugs with you, it’s important that you refrain from any nervous or over the top reactions. If you get mad or angry at them for bringing it up, they may not feel that they can come to you about anything they might experience in the future.
Do your best to create a home environment of love, trust, and openness. Remember, you are the guiding light in their life; most everything of what they know and learn starts with you at home. One way that you can ensure that your child trusts you is to develop a code for them to use once they get into their teenage years.
For example, you can tell your son or daughter that if they are ever in a situation where they are being offered drugs by a peer or in a situation where there are drugs present, they can call or text you this code word or phrase. Without question, once they mention the code, you will be on your way to pick them up. When this happens, it’s important not to be upset, but be happy that your son or daughter trusted you enough to tell you.
What to do if you Suspect that your Son or Daughter is Using Drugs and Alcohol
This is a difficult topic, but absolutely necessary to discuss and be prepared for. The first thing you should know is that vigilance is key and it is important to look for warning signs before it’s too late and your son or daughter is deep in active addiction. In teenagers, this can be challenging. Many times, it’s hard to tell the difference between signs of drug use, and typical teenage behavior, such as mood swings, and irritability.
If you feel like your son or daughter may be using drugs or alcohol, it’s important to find out for sure and you can do this by purchasing an in-home drug test from your local pharmacy. Once you’ve made the determination that your son or daughter is, in fact, using drugs or alcohol, then there are some things you can do immediately to begin to tackle this problem.
The first is to seek out substance use treatment and stop all enabling behaviors. If your son or daughter has a car, take it from them. If your son or daughter gets an allowance, withhold it. Another thing to remember: don’t panic and don’t react in an irrational way to the situation. Stay calm and collected and call an addiction specialist to start making the battle plans to make sure that your son or daughter immediately gets the help they need.
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