There are few things more important than keeping your children safe. Unfortunately, one of the many dangers they’ll face in life is drug and alcohol use. Though the thought of your child doing drugs or drinking alcohol is frightening, it’s sometimes easy to brush off.
We’d all like to think our kids either know better or aren’t exposed to drugs and alcohol at all. The reality is that our kids are often part of communities where the risks are not stressed enough and gaining access to drugs and alcohol isn’t difficult, especially if alcoholism is present at home.
This is why one of the best things you can do as a parent is to bring awareness to the situation and educate your children on the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
What are the odds?
Doctor Roxanne Dryden-Edwards reports that by the time teens have reached their senior year of high school, half of them have tried an illicit drug. Additionally, the CDC notes underage drinkers consume 11 percent of alcohol in the U.S., and 90 percent of that is via binge drinking.
Bradley University outlined in its overview on combating the opioid epidemic, “Youth and adolescents are other groups especially vulnerable.”
Simply put, by virtue of their age, your children are an at-risk demographic. Whether or not your child is prone to consume drugs or alcohol, they are still susceptible to the allure.
How to have a conversation about drugs and alcohol?
The one crucial component that experts across the board say can make a world of difference is whether or not a child recognizes the inherent risk in drug and alcohol use.
While the overarching reasons may vary, kids who consume drugs and alcohol all demonstrated a lack of understanding in relation to how harmful drug use could be.
Parents are the first and best line of defense in terms of ensuring that kids do understand.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence notes, “Kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations.”
While kids may not recognize the risk immediately, they do understand the social stigma. If you want to have a productive conversation, you need to approach it with that in mind.
Here are some of the best ways to utilize conversation about drugs to equip and empower your child –
1. Make it a routine
These conversations are often more effective and less intense if they take the form of consistent dialogue.
When there are drug or alcohol references that come up on TV or in the news, use the opportunity for it to transpire organically.
2. Foster conversation and not a monologue
We’re having the conversation because we have some wisdom to impart. However, we don’t know everything.
Asking open-ended questions and demonstrating your willingness to listen will make your child more likely to do the same.
3. Involve yourself in their life
The more you know about who your child is, the more likely you’ll be able to recognize risks or patterns worth knowing about.
Involvement will translate naturally to an ability to spot trends in their physical and emotional health, making it easier to spot red flags.
4. Communicate the consequences
Clearly lay out your expectations that your children will not use drugs or drink, as well as what the ramifications within your household will be if they do.
Just as important, talk to your children about the negative effects drugs can have on both their health and lifestyle.
5. Prioritize your relationship
If your child feels that you don’t trust or respect them, your relationship will suffer.
Staying upbeat and communicating your trust in their ability to stay away from drugs and alcohol is crucial.
6. Remember family history
Because addiction has genetic ties, it’s important that you consider your family history, and talk to your kids about it.
What drug or alcohol use looks like?
Substance abuse experts note that the primary thing that parents should pay attention to when identifying a substance abuse problem is their own intuition in relation to their child’s behavior.
If they are consistently breaking rules, sneaking around, or their social or academic status is changing, your child may be struggling with drug or alcohol use.
If a child is showcasing drastic physical, behavioral, and/or psychological changes, it is likely time to take them in for a wellness check to rule out other issues before taking further steps to see if drugs or alcohol are a part of the picture.
Start thinking about the issue immediately
Even if your children are young, it’s important that you begin thinking about the issue now — conversations around drugs and alcohol should be started early.
We can’t control every situation our children will find themselves in, but we can approach the topic with a fact-based understanding of what the threat is, how to recognize it, and what to do if we spot it in our own children.
Perhaps one of the worst parts of parenthood is the vulnerability that comes with it. But the good news is that we don’t have to be experts to help our kids make the right choices when it comes to their health.
All that’s truly needed is a willingness to cultivate a basic understanding of what the risks are and to foster conversation around those risks with our children.