By: Guest Blogs | Updated: 26th June 2023
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In recent years, many important advances have been made in the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction, abuse, and dependency conditions.
Many advanced treatments, evidence-based treatments, and promising experimental treatments are proving to deliver better recovery rates for those struggling to break free of abuse and addiction issues.
Still, when it comes to doing your level best to raise children who will grow up to be wise about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as parents we need to be smart.
It might be nice to know that addiction treatments are better than they ever have been, but naturally, we would prefer that our children should never need to enter an addiction or substance abuse treatment program.
We need to give children real information and deliver that information consistently with the right timing and the right tone.
Here, we will share some valuable insights gleaned from experienced parents and from authoritative drug and alcohol abuse and addiction treatment and substance abuse prevention experts.
When is the Right Time to Tell Kids About the Dangers of Drugs & Alcohol?
Most parents put off discussing sensitive issues like sex and drugs with their children, hoping that the “right time” will arise like the sun at dawn.
Many more leave it to public school teachers who may or may not use effective teaching tools to impart this particular subject matter to children.
More still end up never covering these topics with their children, assuming that public service announcements on TV and billboards will do the job for them.
In reality, children should be told how dangerous drugs and alcohol can be at as young an age as possible. They should be warned about them while they still implicitly trust their parents and believe everything they say.
Teenagers have a strong instinct to buck authority and to try things that their parents either fear or did not try. This is a basic reality of human social psychology.
Each generation makes alterations to the habits and beliefs of the previous generation. It is a little-discussed societal-level mechanism that helps societies to not go too far in one direction or the other.
This is why it is a good idea to help your children develop a strong aversion to drug and alcohol abuse at an early age — when many of the things we teach them will remain firmly implanted in the child’s world view.
In the opinion of many experienced parents, the best time to start to teach your children about these issues is as soon as they are able to converse with you intelligibly.
What is the Right Way to Tell Kids About the Dangers of Drugs & Alcohol?
The way you broach the subject with your kids will have a great deal to do with how old they are when you do so. The longer you wait, the more thought you will have to put into your presentation.
A teenager might need to be shocked with grim statistics and “scared straight” stories and images all delivered with a “tough love” kind of tone.
Hopefully, you haven’t waited until their teenage years when they might already have direct experience with drugs or people who use them before you have the talk, according to WebMD. The longer you wait to educate them, the greater the chance that they will have a “but I know someone who does that and he’s fine” type of argument in the back of their minds.
We all know that one example of someone surviving poor life choices is not a good argument for those behaviors. We’ve all heard from someone with a 95-year-old grandma who has smoked all her life and is “just fine.”
That is poor reasoning, but if a teenager has any such case living in their minds, they will be so much more resistant to your admonishments to stay away from drugs. Therefore, we strongly recommend having the talk early and often.
However, if you do wait too long and end up having to give the talk to a 15- or 16-year-old, then be prepared to make a strong case against using drugs.
Here are some helpful tips for talking to teens about drugs and alcohol.
Be a good listener. Be ready to hear what they have to say and accept their thoughts and opinions. If you let the conversation turn into an argument, you will lose them even if you “win” the argument.
Teach by Example
If you drink, or — God forbid — if you have a known history with drugs, you’ve got an uphill climb ahead of you. Don’t be afraid to say that you have made mistakes in your life if that’s the truth. Just make sure that you live according to your advice now.
Give them real, factual information. The statistics and the facts about dangerous substances speak for themselves, so there is no reason to sugarcoat the facts, or use unnecessary scare tactics.
Know that You Must Contend with Popular Culture
Movies, TV, and music paint romantic pictures of drugs and alcohol. You don’t have to criticize a piece of media that shows drug abuse. Simply help your teen understand that fiction does not represent reality accurately.
If your teen is dealing with stress or pressure, offer them healthy and attractive alternatives to giving in to peer pressure. Remember that forbidding contact with sketchy friends can do more harm than good.
Be a Safe Zone
Nurture a sense of trust and comfort with your child. Show them that you can be confided in safely. Don’t let the subject become one where you’re more like a cop than a parent. It doesn’t mean you have to tolerate dangerous behavior. It just means that setting up a “me versus them” relationship is counterproductive.
If you believe your teen is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, do not wait to intervene. Treatment options for teens are readily available, and oftentimes there are public funds made available to help.
To learn more, visit this website if you need help with a teen who may be at risk of getting involved with drugs or alcohol.