Plenty of information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol is available from parent resource centers on the Internet. These online outlets are valuable for parents who want to learn more and talk with their kids about drugs. However, the actual conversation might be more difficult for parents than the research.
Most parents realize the importance of setting clear expectations and voicing strong disapproval of drug and alcohol use. For example, one survey discovered that 89 percent of parents believe they are the leading influence on whether or not their kids drink. This is an awesome responsibility, to be sure, and one that can be daunting for parents not sure how to start the conversation.
Nonetheless, the conversation must take place—for the sake of your children. It’s completely normal to be a little nervous, but there’s no reason to be scared. Here are several tips to help you talk to your kids about drugs:
Take a Deep Breath…
Talking to kids about drugs often can be more stressful for the parent than the teen. This is understandable—you want to strike the right tone so that kids will be inspired to make smart choices and ultimately be safe—but you if appear frantic, your point might not come across or be ignored. Try to be as relaxed as possible when you talk to your children.
Talk, but Also Listen
Communication with your teenagers is so critical for them, from the serious stuff to everyday conversation. When communication is good, your kids will be more apt to value your message. Therefore, listen to what your kids are saying and asking—not just when talking to them about drugs, but every time you communicate.
Openness Is Important
A goal when you talk to teens about drugs is not to lecture, but rather to build trust so that they feel like they can come to you anytime to talk about anything. Answer questions as honestly as possible and build your credibility so that your are more likely to kids respect your opinions, advice and authority.
Don’t Try to Be a Drug Expert
There might be questions your teens pose that you won’t have immediate answers for—and that’s OK. The technical details on whether heroin or cocaine is more addictive don’t matter as much as the fact that both are dangerous and off limits. You don’t need all the answers to present a strong case and you can always look up the answers later, possibly with the help of a parent resource center, if needed.
Your overall message should focus on your kids being healthy, on the importance of taking care of their bodies and minds - and on long-term consequences. That may seem like a lot to cover, but the messages overlap; when kids make smart choices, they sustain their good health, set themselves up for continuous success and avoid the negative effects of using drugs and alcohol.
Look for Everyday Teachable Moments
Talking to your kids about drugs shouldn’t be limited to planned conversations. You and your teens will come across teachable moments that are perfect to continue the discussion. Such moments can include something you both see on TV, an extended family member struggling with addiction or drug- or alcohol-related tragedies in your community.
Avoid Information Overload
If you try to cram too much information into your conversation, the important message you are trying to convey might get lost in the details, so be as concise and straightforward as possible.
Don’t mince words when you are talking to your teens about drugs and alcohol—any use at their age is simply unacceptable. Strong disapproval resonates with kids. The goal is for them to smart choices, to tell you or another adult when they encounter a problem or unsafe situation, and to call you when they need help such as a judgment-free ride home from a party or other circumstance in which drugs or booze was involved.
There Is No One ‘Talk’
Parents hoping for a one-size-fits-all conversation with their teens about drugs are setting themselves up for disappointment. Tailor your talk to your kids—their age, personality, environment, friends and so on. You know your children better than anyone else, so you are the person best suited to deliver these important anti-drug messages in a manner that works for you and them. Also, don’t make it a one-time occurrence; ideally, you will have an ongoing dialogue over time.
What helpful information about drugs and alcohol do you think should be available through a parent resource center?