Talking to Your Kids About Drugs [How-To]

It may not be as awkward as the sex talk, but knowing how to talk to kids about drugs can be just as tricky. You’re probably mulling over when is the right time to talk to your kids, how to broach the subject, and how honest you should be about your own history with drugs and alcohol. Even after talking to your child about drugs, you need to be prepared in case he or she is using. You also need to know what to do if your child isn’t using but his friends are.

In short, you need to be prepared for almost any situation. How to talk to kids about drugs involves not just knowing what to say, but also how to deliver the message. If you feel unprepared on how to talk to your child about drugs, you can get help directly from our experts at Recovery Treatment Substance Abuse. Call us today at 912-214-3867.


Continue reading for more information about talking to your kids about drugs. If you require further assistance please contact our specialists today.

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Talk to Your Children About Drugs at Any Age

Many parents don’t envision having the drug talk with their kids until the children are in high school; certainly not before middle school. But you can actually start earlier than that. Experts recommend you start when your child is between ages 4 and 7. This is also a good way to lay the groundwork for future discussions.

You don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty about addiction when talking to your child about drugs. Start by discussing with them what kinds of medication they are being given and why. Explain that baby aspirin is to bring down fevers, cough medicines are to stop coughs and antibiotics are to help get them over certain infections. At this age, a child is more likely to pay attention to what you have to say. And you can start laying down your values on other drugs such as alcohol and nicotine.

This is also the time in your child’s life when you can take advantage of “teachable moments.” If you see a character in a movie or on TV with a cigarette, that’s an ideal time to discuss smoking and what it can do to the body.

When discussing other drugs, make sure to keep the tone calm, friendly, and warm. Use terms a child can understand, while still being specific about a particular drug. Talk about the effects of the drugs, how they make a person feel, the risk of overdose, and long-term damage to the mind and body. You may have to research the drugs, as well as how to explain them to a young child in simple terms.

Approaching the Tween Years

When your kids are between the ages of 8 and 12, they have likely started hearing about illicit drugs. This is a good time for you to not only to ask them what they think about drugs but also what they know about them. Keep your questions open-ended and your tone non-judgmental. You’re more likely to get honest answers or at least open the door to future conversations when using this approach on how to talk to kids about drugs.

If your kids are being candid with you about their concerns and questions, this is the time to show your kids that you’re listening and really paying attention. This is important because kids at this age are still willing to talk openly with their parents.

Even if your kids don’t respond to your questions in a way that leads to a meaningful discussion, your children will know you’re interested. When they are ready to talk, they will know that you’re willing to discuss the topic and hear what they have to say.

In addition, be aware of current events. If a popular entertainer enters rehab or dies as a result of drugs, that’s an opportunity to provide your children with information about the risks of drug abuse. Contact us today if you need help talking to your tween about drugs and addiction.

Talking to Your Teens

Now you’re diving into the deep end. Kids between the ages of 13 and 17 probably know other kids — even friends — who are experimenting with drugs. If you’ve been open with them and listening to their concerns since they were wee ones, your teens may be more willing to express their thoughts and ask more specific questions about drugs.

Through these conversations, you can understand your teen’s thoughts and feelings about drugs and alcohol. You can have mature conversations about the physical dangers of driving under the influence or being in a car with a driver under the influence. You can also discuss the legal issues involved such as fines, suspended driver’s licenses, and even jail time.

With your children older, you might want to consider putting together a written contract of what behaviors are expected from your teen regarding drug and alcohol use.

Be Involved in Your Child’s Life

Being involved in your kids’ lives means more than knowing when they have to be picked up from soccer practice. You have to know about their studies, what movies or TV shows they like, what video games they play, and especially, who their friends are.

The more you know about your child, the more you’ll be able to sense how your kid is feeling. Let them know that you’re available, willing to listen in a non-judgmental way, and provide support. Recognize when your kids are going through difficult times so that you can provide the support they need or seek additional care if it’s needed.

If your child believes they can trust you, he may approach you to say no when they are offered drugs. You can try role-playing to help your child develop strategies for rejecting drugs. Act out possible scenarios they may encounter, like being offered alcohol at a party, marijuana at a concert, or pills when just hanging out with friends. Help your child construct responses so they are prepared whenever the situation presents itself.

It’s important to keep those lines of communication you first opened when your child was 4. Having real conversations with your kids should be a regular part of your day. By building trust, your chances of keeping your kids off drugs increase. It is never too late to get involved in your childs life. Call us today if you fear your child may be abusing drugs. We can help you get them on the right path to treatment.

Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Drugs

Yes, it takes a lot of work to prepare yourself for talking to kids about drugs. If you’re still a little iffy on how to talk to your child about drugs, here’s a handy tip sheet from Harvard Medical School to keep you on track.

Be Clear About Your Rules and Values

If you don’t want your child to smoke pot, take pills or drink alcohol, tell him so. Don’t use parent/corporate euphemisms like “make good decisions” or “use your judgment.” While you think you told your kid not to use drugs and alcohol, your son may have just heard “don’t get blackout drunk.”

Resist the Urge to Lecture

This is a tough one for adults. Not only do we want our children to avoid our mistakes, but it’s also hard to get past that “when you’re living under my roof” mentality. But it’s better to draw out their thoughts so you can discuss them. Don’t ask, “Are you smoking pot?” Instead, ask, “Tell me, what do you know about marijuana?” If your teen feels her point of view is being listened to, you can have a conversation about drugs rather than a one-way lecture.

Why is Your Child Using Substances?

If you catch your kids using drugs, it’s tempting to yell and punish. Resist that urge. What’s more important is trying to get at the root of why your teen is using drugs. Is it because of anxiety, depression, isolation, stress, or peer-pressure? Not all teens understand their feelings, so suggest they speak to a professional. Make sure your suggestion doesn’t come off as a punishment but rather as a sincere effort to understand what your teen is going through.

Know When (and How) to Intervene

You want to encourage openness and honesty when talking to your kids about drugs. You also want to keep them safe. If your child appears to be developing a substance use disorder, it’s time for them to have a professional assessment.

Family History of Substance Use Disorders

Studies show that the genetic heritability of addiction is strong and complex. Be honest with your kids if your father or great uncle or sister had a substance use disorder. Let them know they are part of a family vulnerable to substance abuse. That could deter teens from using drugs in the first place.

Be Honest and Set the Example

You’re talking to your kids about drugs when the question you most dreaded comes up: “Mom, did you ever take drugs?” Let’s be honest; since the baby boomers, experimenting with drugs is a rite of passage. And not everyone gets addicted.

Lindsey Prevost, the director of prevention services at the Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans, notes that many parents hesitate to talk to their kids about drugs if they used drugs themselves at some point. Instead of lying, consider it a teachable moment that allows you to have an honest, constructive conversation with your kids.

You can honestly tell them that you didn’t know then how drugs impair the teenage brain. You also have to walk the talk by not:

  • Drinking excessively
  • Driving drunk
  • Showing that you can’t have fun without drinking
  • Recognizing when you’ve had enough

Be clear about your values, be honest, and listen. Those are the three main principles of talking to kids about drugs. If you would like more information on how to talk to kids about drugs or getting a professional assessment for your child, call us today.

Written by Janet Perez

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