How comfortable are your children coming to you to discuss drug and alcohol use? Do they feel like your home is a safe space to have open conversations about the pressures they face at school or questions they might have about these substances? It can be an uncomfortable topic in some households to discuss drug use, but it’s a critical discussion to have with children who are entering their teen years. In this article, you’ll learn why it’s critical to create a safe space for your kids to ask questions and share their experiences with you regarding drug use. Find out what you can say to your child to initiate a discussion when teaching kids about drugs.
When to Start Teaching Kids About Drugs
Parents can protect their kids from drugs by teaching them about substance use before they’re put in a situation where people are using drugs around them or pressuring them to try it. Surveys indicate that drug use can begin as young as 12 to 13 years old, so kids in middle school and high school are likely to be faced with decisions about whether to engage in substance abuse when pressured by their peers. You can lower a child’s addiction risk by talking to them about the dangers of drug use and how to say “no” before they reach the age where this is a major concern.
If your child is entering a separate school for middle school or junior high, this is a good time to speak to them about the risks associated with drug use. As they leave behind their public school and the institution they attend is geared towards tweens and teens, there are likely going to be more instances of drug exposure. Your child’s peers may even be exposed to drugs at home and bring them to school. In fact, 1 in 8 children in America had one parent in their home use illegal drugs in the past year.
Why Your Kids Need a Safe Space to Talk About Drugs
While many schools have some sort of drug education program in place, this is no substitute for having a one-on-one discussion with your child about drugs, alcohol and the dangers of addiction. If your child is faced with pressure to use drugs at school, you want to have already opened the door to that conversation so they feel comfortable coming to you and confiding in you if they’re scared or uncomfortable. Feeling like they can talk to you about drug use among their peers also allows you to remain involved in their lives and makes your child feel they don’t have to keep secrets from you.
It’s important to understand that choosing not to talk about drugs with your child also sends a strong message, and it doesn’t mean they won’t encounter them just because you didn’t educate them about it. Deciding not to undertake substance abuse education can result in your child being unprepared for situations they may encounter. In 2021, 32% of grade 12 students, 19% of grade 10s and 10% of grade 8 students reported using illegal drugs within the past 12 months. If you haven’t broached the topic first, they’re unlikely to come to you when they have questions or concerns about drugs.
How to Talk to Your Child About Substance Use
Kids and drugs is a major fear for many parents, and you might think “not my child,” but unfortunately if you don’t educate your kid, they won’t be aware of what they’re getting themselves into when they start using drugs in middle or high school. Knowing how to open the conversation about drugs with your kids and create a sense of trust and confidence between you allows children to come to you with questions or concerns rather than fearing punishment if they encounter drugs on the schoolyard.
Here are conversation starters to help make it easier to talk to your kids about drugs and substance abuse for the first time.
Talking to Kids Under 13 About Drugs
You’ll want to start your first conversation about drugs when your child is still in middle school. A great way to begin is simply sitting your child down in a relaxing home environment and asking them if they’ve heard of drugs. If they say yes, listen to what they have to say and if they have a viewpoint, be respectful. If your young child has never been exposed to the word before, this is your opportunity to explain what drugs are and why they’re a cause for concern. When explaining drugs, stick to the facts and don’t impart personal opinion or make them sound fun or glamorous.
You can explain what some of the side effects of drug use look like and how they impact human behavior. Allow your child to ask questions, and make sure they know they can talk to you at any time if they encounter drugs or witness someone using them.
Talking to Teens About Drugs
When your child becomes a teenager, you’ll likely want to revisit the drug discussion again, this time more in-depth. Now that they’re at the age where their peers may have a driver’s license, it’s critical for them to understand the dangers of using drugs or alcohol when driving. Ensure they know they should never get into a car with someone who’s drunk or on drugs. Tell them they can call you anytime, from anywhere, and that you or someone you trust will come and pick them up, no questions asked. This helps kids have a plan for a safe ride home from parties or other events, like prom, where they or their peers may engage in drug and alcohol use.
Resources to Support Talking to Kids About Addiction
If you’re wondering how to lower your child’s risk of addiction, consider educating them on the repercussions of drug and alcohol abuse from a relatively young age. Resources to help you start the conversation include government-curated drug and alcohol facts for kids from sources like:
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Drug Enforcement Administration
If you suspect your child is using or addicted to drugs, a professional rehabilitation facility can help them get their life back on track.
Seek Treatment for Your Child
If your child becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, consider treatment options at FHE Health in Florida. We have an inpatient addiction detox program and a number of other outpatient care programs to support your child in their recovery. Call us today at (833) 596-3502 and speak to one of our compassionate counselors.