How to Talk to Your Kids About Alcohol and Drug Abuse

By The Care Centers. Posted on Fri Feb 26 2016

In the ‘80s, Nancy Reagan ran the “Just Say No” campaign to keep kids off drugs, but it backfired horribly. Essentially, instead of talking with their kids about drugs and alcohol, parents were encouraged to tell their kids to just say no if they were offered either. Of course, teens being rebellious and curious, kids didn’t say no. In fact, they said yes more than ever. Since then, we’ve learned that the best way to keep kids off of drugs and alcohol is to talk with them about these substances and help them understand the dangers associated with them.

Pre-School Through Kindergarten
You don’t have to sit your five-year-old down for a serious discussion about marijuana, methamphetamines, heroin, and alcohol. However, at this age you can set the stage for appropriate use of prescription drugs and inappropriate use of recreational drugs. Create a teachable moment whenever you have to give them medicine about how these are good drugs when they’re used appropriately and that they should never be used for anything but what they’re made for.

Elementary School Through Early Middle School
At some point between the ages of eight and twelve, ask your child what they think of drugs. Remember to ask open-ended, honest, and nonjudgmental questions. Then you’ll get more honest and open answers, and you’ll be able to have a frank conversations about the effects of different drugs, why people use and abuse them, and why they should be avoided.

By the time your child is between 13 and 17, they unfortunately probably know other kids their age who abuse drugs and alcohol. If you’ve been open and honest about this subject with your child up till now and you still approach it with nonjudgmental questions, they’ll probably be willing to talk with you about the subject and give you honest answers. Plus, you’ve already laid the groundwork for them to have a clear view of the dangers and risks associated with doing drugs and drinking as a minor.

Creating an Effective and Detailed Contract
At this point, you can get more specific and actually lay down rules about drinking and drug use. Create a written or verbal contract that your child will not do drugs or drink, and include details about hanging out with others who are engaging in dangerous activities.

For example, if your son or daughter is driving your car while one of their friends smokes weed or drinks, they’ll lose their driving privileges for the next six months. The clearer you are about your expectations for them and that you’re honestly just looking out for their health, their safety, and their future, the more your kids will respect your rules and your opinions on drug and alcohol use.

If you keep an open dialogue with your kids about drugs and alcohol, they’ll be far less likely to try experimenting with either. This can avoid a lot of trouble, health problems, and issues with addiction down the road. However, if your child does have a problem with addiction, this is not a sign that you’ve failed them or that they’ve “gone wrong.” It just means that they need help, and a qualified rehab facility may be the best place to get it.

Tags: Mental Health