What you did or did not do as a teenager or a 20-something regarding experimentation with drugs doesn’t have to have any bearing on what you tell your children. What does have an effect is to tell them what your values are now concerning drugs. It’s your job as a parent to let your children know that drugs can be dangerous and to teach your children to value self-discipline.
You know that just as you must have the “sex” talk, you ought to have the “drug” one, too. Your kids aren’t going to know by osmosis your views on drugs unless you tell them. If you say nothing, your children will come to their own conclusions, probably from information they get from their friends or from TV. It’s better that this information comes from you. If you tell young children that drugs are bad, for example, they believe that drugs are bad, states Paul Coleman, family therapist.
You can start having teachable moments with your child as soon as she is preschool age. If you see someone smoking, you can talk about becoming addicted to nicotine and the damage that smoking does to your body. This can lead up to discussing illicit drugs and the harm they can do to your body. You can tell your child that people can become addicted and can’t stop, even knowing they are harming themselves. Keep the discussion calm, recommends KidsHealth, but also be specific about the risk of overdose and the long-term damage different types of drugs cause. Research this information first if you are not clear yourself.
When your kids are tweens, you can start asking them what they think about drugs. Ask them in a nonjudgmental way, recommends KidsHealth. That way, you are more likely to get a real response. At this age, kids are usually more open to having these types of frank discussions with you than when they become teenagers. You might start talking about the risks of steroid use as related to current newsworthy events about professional athletes, for example. That could lead to talking about other types of drugs.
Once your child is a teenager, the best way to get the message across is to emphasize that he could lose his driver’s license if he is caught driving under the influence. Also, discuss the possibility of harming others while driving and using drugs and possibly doing jail time. Chances are that your teenager knows people who use drugs, and he may want to talk to you about his concerns. At this point, establish rules for your teenager. Tell him that you are happy to pick him up if his friends have been using drugs or if he has. After that, you might want to suspend driving privileges if your car or your teen’s car was being used in conjunction with drugs.
It’s important for you to be approachable when it comes to talking about drugs. Let your child know that you are there to answer any questions or discuss any issues regarding drug use. Reassure your child that you love her. Children who have high self-esteem are less likely to succumb to peer pressure regarding using drugs, according to the BabyCenter. Be a safe haven for your child.