The danger of drug abuse is unfortunately common in the United States, and no parent wants their children to experiment with drugs out of a lack of knowledge. Talking with your children about drugs can be uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary part of their development. So, when is it too early to bring up drugs?
Is My Child Too Young?
As a parent, it’s important to engage your children in conversation about their health, but it can be difficult to know where to start. This conversation doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, it’s best if you lay a foundation for a discussion about drugs throughout their childhood.
Part of creating this foundation is using opportunities to teach them about the positives and negatives of legal drugs. For instance, when you give them medicine for a fever or some other ailment, you can discuss the benefits and problems of using these types of medicine.
You can also take the opportunity to discuss the negative consequences of behavior depicted on television. As they grow up, you can ask them what their thoughts are about drugs, leaving the door open for them to engage with you if they have questions.
Some families avoid the topic of drugs because it’s uncomfortable, but it’s better for your child to learn information about drugs from you, rather than by experience.
How Do I Start the Conversation?
At some point, you should have a more in-depth conversation with your child about drugs. It is important to approach this conversation gently but directly, and to not come across as accusatory. You can start the conversation by talking about positive things your child does, which can help them feel as though they don’t have to be defensive.
It is also important not to share stories of your own experimentation with drugs, even as an example of the negative effect it had on your life. Some research has shown that this may actually encourage children to experiment with drugs (1).
Instead, it’s important to focus on them and their understanding of the consequences of drug use. Make sure you understand what is going on in their lives and how they are feeling. A lot of teen drug use stems from anxiety, stress and social pressure (2). If they feel like they are able to speak with you about what is happening in their lives, they may be less likely to seek out drugs.
You can also help them develop plans for dealing with peer pressure and other temptations. Together, you can discuss consequences for drug use, so they understand what will happen if they fall into drug use.
Where Do You Go from There?
As a parent, it can be intimidating to discuss drug use with your children, but it is also vitally important that they know the risks and consequences of drug use. Talking about drug use shouldn’t be a one-time event. It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Let them know that you will answer any questions they have and that you are there to listen to them when they need you.