Having the Tough Talks: Drugs and Alcohol

(Based on my 8/31 WAFB Parenting 101 interview)

When is the right age to start talking with your kids about drugs and alcohol?

  • Whenever a situation presents itself, whether in “real life” or on screen, where the subject of alcohol or drugs makes sense to discuss. In fact, “Intervention” on A&E is a fantastic resource for parents to utilize in teaching your kids about where the abuse of drugs and alcohol can lead.  Set your DVR to record the show regularly, then find an episode or two that you feel comfortable using as an illustration and conversation guide.
  • If your child makes it to middle school without you having shared a few direct, specific talks along these lines, YOU ARE LATE AND NEED TO CATCH UP NOW!!!

What are some important things to do in talking with our kids about alcohol and drugs?

  • Be honest with them. If you really want to protect and empower your children to the fullest, so they are well equipped to make wise choices in this area of life, show them the respect of telling the truth.
  • Be specific with them. “Drugs are dangerous” may be a good starting point for a seven year old, but at some point you need to tell them and show them what are the particular risks of using/abusing inhalants, opiates, marijuana, alcohol, prescription pills, etc.
  • Invite them to ask questions. Sure, they may stump you with an unexpected zinger.  Big deal!  Find the answer together, empowering them and building your relationship in the process.
  • Share any lessons you have learned “the hard way.” Yes, you should use age-appropriate judgment in how much detail you share with your kids, but their are few lessons that will get their attention like the ones where their parents made mistakes and paid a price for it.

What are some important things NOT to do in talking with our kids about drugs and alcohol?

  • Make big threats. Telling your kids they will be grounded for a year or sent to boot camp or on God’s permanent Naughty List if they ever drink or use drugs will not be helpful to them at all, and may increase their likelihood of indulging in the “secret forbidden fruit” syndrome – hiding their struggles from you and the world.  Not good!
  • Go to extremes of exaggeration or avoidance. Again, this is disempowering and not at all helpful, as it does not help ground and equip them in reality.  And drugs and alcohol are very real, let me assure you.
  • Scare them into never talking to you again. So, you feel scared or uneasy about discussing this stuff with your kids.  GET OVER IT!  They NEED you to be calm and confident as you discuss the realities of alcohol and drug use and abuse with them.

Where can parents get help if you are concerned your child/teen may have a problem with alcohol or drugs?

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