According to research reported on by the National Crime Prevention Council, the primary reason that a young person will avoid using drugs, alcohol or cigarettes is because of his or her parents. The influence that parents have on shaping a child’s beliefs, opinions, habits and behaviors would be difficult to overestimate, especially against the background of today’s cultural background in which one is told “don’t trust anyone over 30” and in which young people are increasingly alienated from their elders.
The things that you say or do on the subject of drugs and alcohol can have an enormous impact in determining what your children will think and what they will do in their own lives. To this end, it is important for you to realize that you and your spouse should not hesitate to talk with your children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
Shying Away from Talking About Addiction
Some parents shy away from these topics out of a feeling of squeamishness. They don’t want to talk with their children about subjects that they feel might be awkward for themselves or for their children. In other cases, the parents are concerned that by making too big of a deal out of drugs and alcohol, they will be thereby generating interest which was not there before. Furthermore, there is a common situation in which parents avoid talking with their children about drugs and alcohol because they don’t know what to say when the inevitable question comes up, “Did you drink or use drugs when you were my age?” What can you say to that question? Will admitting it make your child think that it is okay for him or her to drink or get high? Or will your honesty give you a more authoritative standpoint from which to explain just how bad drinking and drugs are? I
t’s a question that has to be answered on a case-by-case basis, since no two children are alike and the solution which works best might for one might be the worst for another. For example, if your child is already on a rebellious streak may be asking you just to get an excuse to try drugs or alcohol or defend an existing habit. On the other hand, your teenager might be simply looking for information to help clear up confusion over a friend’s new drug habit, and your ability to weigh in on the matter and answer questions could make the difference in your child’s decision whether or not to follow the friend’s example.
When Should You Talk to Your Kids About Drugs
There is no single right answer for how to talk to your children about drugs, but there is one thing that you absolutely must do, and that is talk. No matter what apprehensions you might have about what could happen when you talk with your kids about drinking or drugs, your silence on the subject is worse. If you manage to avoid the topic, your children will be left exposed to outside sources for information, and you will have no control over what they hear. Their friends will say whatever they want to say, and it will not be balanced out by your own statements or warnings.
They will see and hear whatever comes in the media. It would be a mistake to rely on the school system to keep your kids sober; decades of institutional anti-drug programs have only seen increases in the rates of substance abuse and addiction. Whether it’s awkward, confrontational, frustrating or enlightening, you should not hesitate to take the chance to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol. Your words will have more of an effect than you may realize, and they may echo in your child’s mind at the moment when it counts.