Bringing up healthy children requires more than just providing nutritious food and a healthy home environment. Parents must also consider the possibility of peer pressure and drugs that children may be exposed to when they are not in the house. Although you cannot live your child’s life and make every decision for him or her, you can help reduce the risk of substance abuse by talking to your children and teenagers about the dangers of drugs.
Why Talk About Drugs?
The topic of substance abuse can be challenging to discuss, especially if you have used drugs in the past or did not have much education on the topic when you were a teenager. The problem is that schools may not offer the educational guidance that your children need to make the best decisions.
According to Healthy Children, children and teenagers who were educated about the dangers of drugs at home were less likely to try substances outside the house. Healthy
Children states that only 26 percent of teenagers who were educated at home tried any substance. Roughly 33 percent of teenagers who were slightly educated at home tried a substance and 45 percent of teenagers who never had discussions about drugs or alcohol at home tried a substance.
The figures show the risk of avoiding the discussion about drugs. It is important to educate your children and teenagers about the dangers and keep talking about drugs in the house. Do not allow your worries about your own experiences prevent you from communicating the important topic to your children.
Talk About Drugs Early and Often
Do not wait until your children are teenagers before you first bring up the topic. Start talking about drugs while your children are in elementary school. You do not need to get into the specifics about the dangers when they are young, but telling them not to smoke cigarettes, try pills, drink alcohol or take any other substance can give them the message early on that the substances are dangerous.
Explain the dangers in an age-appropriate way. For example, when a child is in elementary school, tell him or her that drugs are dangerous and can make them sick. As they get older, you can get into more specific dangers associated with addiction, health concerns and their future.
Young children may not fully understand the dangers of drug abuse, but the message you teach them at home can help them make careful decisions when they are out with friends. Opening up lines of communication when children are young can make the topic easier to discuss when they are older. It also helps create a strong message that drugs are dangerous.
Ask Your Children and Teens About Their Beliefs
You may be surprised at what your children have to say on the topic of drug use. Do not make assumptions about your child’s level of knowledge. Instead, ask questions and listen with an open mind.
Listening is just as important as telling your children the dangers because it shows that your children can come to you when they have questions. It allows your children to feel comfortable talking about the subject and allows them to recognize that you are not judging their beliefs, ideas or perspective.
Ask a few questions and then just listen to your child or teen’s answers. Give them time to articulate and explain their opinions. Ask for clarification if any idea seems odd or if you are not following the thought processes. You may be surprised at how much your children already know or what they feel about the topic.
Explain Your Concerns
As an adult, you can see the long-term picture that may be overlooked by a child or teenager. Teenagers and children are often focused on the present. They may not be able to see how their behavior in the present may impact their life in the future.
Explain your concerns about drug abuse and the reasons that you keep bringing up the topic. Tell them about the experiences of others and the difficulties that other individuals have faced when they try to give up drugs. Do not use your own experiences as an example; instead, use the experiences of a celebrity or another individual to showcase your personal concerns.
By telling your children why you want them to avoid drugs and alcohol, you are showing them the future that may occur if they begin abusing the substances. Children and teenagers may not be able to see the big picture until after you have given them a few examples and addressed your personal concerns.
Do Not Share Your Own Experiences
If you have experimented with drugs in the past, then do not share those experiences with your children. It is not hypocritical to use the example of others or to avoid sharing your personal experiences with your children.
Your role as a parent is to guide your children and help them make better decisions than you did as a child. You do not want them to make the same mistakes. According to Psych Central, teenagers are more likely to experiment with drugs if their parents tell them about their own experiences with substance abuse. Children may justify their experimentation if you tell them that you abused drugs in the past.
If you need an example of the dangers of substance abuse, then use celebrities or other individuals to illustrate your point.
Point Out the Immediate Consequences of Substance Abuse
Every substance has long and short-term consequences. When you are talking to a child or a teenager, focus on the immediate consequences or the short-term problems that may arise. A teenager is trying to fit in with friends and classmates, so pointing out that certain substance may cause bad breath or may result in the loss of friends can be a powerful deterrent.
Immediate or short-term consequences that you may point out include:
- Bad breath for any substance that is smoked
- Smells that linger on clothes and skin
- Yellowing or staining of the teeth
- Broken or rotten teeth
- Poor athletic performance or an inability to play sports
- Yellowing of the skin
- Hacking cough or symptoms of sickness
Healthy Children points out that 80 percent of teenaged boys and 70 percent of teenaged girls will not date a smoker. Use those figures and statistics in regards to a variety of substances to show the potential downsides of substance abuse.
Teenagers and children want to fit in, which means that figures that show they will not fit in after using drugs can help them recognize the long-term dangers.
Point Out the Cost
Drug abuse does not seem expensive when it relates to a single purchase. Whether it is a pack of cigarettes, a can of beer or a small amount of any substance, the yearly cost does not seem expensive at first. Use cigarettes as a baseline estimate for the yearly expense of drugs. Keep in mind that many substances are very expensive, so the cigarettes are a minimum estimate.
Use a yearly figure to help illustrate your point. For example, tell your child that if they spend five dollars per day on drugs, then they will spend roughly $1,825 by the end of the year. That figure is more impressive than the daily cost.
Point out the hobbies, activities or items that your children can purchase for that $1,825 in a year.
Options to point out may include:
- Martial arts lessons
- Singing or dancing lessons
- Saving up for a car
- Saving up for college
- Buying new CDs, books or movies
- Going out to restaurants
- Going out to movies in the theater
- Buying items for a collection
The options that you point out should focus on your child’s interests. For example, if your child wants to learn martial arts, then pointing out that the yearly cost for martial arts lessons is actually less than the cost of drugs may be a powerful deterrent from substance abuse.
Keep the Conversation as Positive as Possible
Although it may seem hard to discuss your concerns and the dangers of drug use in a positive way, reinforcing the behaviors that you want to see can actually be helpful. If your child or teen reports that he or she refused to try a substance when offered at a party or while out with friends, then praise his or her behavior. Tell them that you are proud of their decision to avoid drugs.
Even if your children do not feel comfortable reporting their actions, give them words of praise about how proud you are of their determination not to use or abuse drugs. By putting a positive spin on the conversation, you are also giving them the subconscious idea that you may be disappointed if they use drugs in the future.
Peer pressure a key concern for children and teenagers because they may not always make the best decisions when they are being pressured by peers. Although peer pressure may impact a child’s decision, parents can also play a key role in their choices. If they know that you are proud when they do not use drugs, then they are less likely to experiment or try a substance.
Talking about drugs and substance abuse with a child or teenager may seem difficult, but it is an important part of helping them avoid drugs in the future. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can help your child make healthier and safer decisions by pointing out your concerns, listening to their opinions and being clear about the long and short-term consequences of drug use.