Laying the Groundwork
When your children are small, you don't have to have in-depth discussions about the effects of drug use, jail time and death. That is too heavy for small children. Age appropriate conversations are delicate. It's important to look for teachable moments that can be turned into a discussion. The perfect place is at the doctor's office when they are getting shots or medications. You can talk about the positive uses for drugs when taken responsibly from a doctor to treat illness. The child might not have questions at this time. It's still a great opportunity to open the topic and lay the foundation for discussion later.
How you approach the discussion influences the tone of the conversation. Don't launch into a lecture or a tirade about the evils of drugs or use scare tactics to force the child to stay away from drugs. It could potentially have the opposite effect. Instead, ask your child an open-ended question that fosters communication. When you actively listen to your child, they are more likely to open up to you. Kids are often curious at this age, and any information not learned from you will be learned from others. Talk about the long-term effects of drugs and alcohol as well as how devastating they can be. Even though the child is a little older at this point, there are still plenty of teachable moments where you can discuss drug use. Sports figures, reality stars and celebrities bring situations for discussion all the time.
Whether you've laid the groundwork up to this point or not, you'll need to have frank talks with your teenager about your expectations regarding drug and alcohol use. Not enough parents are doing this. In fact, only 4 out of 10 parents are even concerned about their children’s possible drug use . But you should be, because they are learning to drive, and so are their friends. More than likely, someone they know is using drugs. Talk to your child about getting into a car with someone who has been drinking or using drugs. Let them know the consequences of that kind of action as well as your stance on it. While the teenager might be dismissive or seem like they are not listening, they are. It might be time to talk about a contract with your child. If they are stuck with someone who has been drinking or using drugs, and need a ride, promise to pick them up from anywhere at any time with no question. Above all else, you want them to be safe.
When you talk openly and honestly with your children, they will respond to the environment that you've fostered. Teenagers don't always share every thought with their parents, but they'll remember caring, non-judgmental discussions, and promises you've made to listen without anger. To have honest conversations about drugs, you might have to do some research on drug information on your own to understand the facts and also the outward signs of abuse and consequences whether it's jail time or the body's response to drugs. It's tempting to inflate the truth about jail time, or the effects on drugs, but if the child finds out you lied, the consequences can be detrimental to the open environment you've been trying to develop.
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