Alcohol and drug use has become increasingly common among the youth of today. Be it peer pressure or the need to keep up with the ‘cool’ kids, children, especially teenagers, are falling into the harmful practice of substance abuse at alarming rates. It is your responsibility as parents to ensure that your children mend their ways and overcome their drug problems for good.
Opening communication lines is the first step. Getting help is the next. This blog post will show you how you can address the situation and begin talking about the ‘alcohol and drugs’ problem starting today.
Why should you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol?
Talking to your children about contentious subjects like drugs and alcohol use helps you keep the communication line open. By talking about these things, you give your children the room to express their views on the subject matter.
The goal lies in creating a no-judgment zone. When you do this, you succeed at creating a nurturing and supportive home environment where children can talk to their parents without reservation. In other words, when parents create a supportive environment at home, children can make better life decisions as they are encouraged to communicate without fear of judgment or punishment.
While children are instinctively not inclined to listen to their parents, especially when they reach the teenage category, it is essential to discuss the risks of using drugs and alcohol at an early age.
If you talk to your children honestly and directly, they are likely to respect your advice. This way, parents like you can protect their children from any high-risk behavior linked to drug or alcohol use from an early age.
Being parents, you are the first role models for your children. Your views on tobacco, alcohol, and drugs will influence their thinking and shape their perspective on the issue. By talking to them about the cons of alcohol and drug abuse, you can keep them informed about the potential risks it poses to them.
While having the ‘talk’ does not necessarily guarantee that your children will follow your advice, it opens up their worldview and tells them that they have a friend in you, no matter what might happen in the future.
When should you begin talking to your children about drugs and alcohol?
There is no one-for-all approach that you can follow. Teaching your children about contentious subjects like drug and alcohol abuse can be riskier than you initially thought. You, as parents, might not have the perfect solution. After all, there’s no one manual for communication.
Here are some age-appropriate steps that you can follow to instruct children in different age groups.
Preschool to Age 7:
It is best to begin teaching them early. You can take advantage of certain “teachable moments.”
For example, when you give your child medicine for fever, you can start teaching them about the benefits of medicines and when to consume them. Moreover, when you see a movie character on TV with alcohol or cigarette, you can discuss how harmful these substances are for their body.
Always discuss in a calm and pleasant tone so that kids can understand the long-term damage these substances can cause.
Ages 8 to 12:
When your children are between 8 and 12, you can initiate talking to them about their views about alcohol and drugs without going too in-depth on the subject. If you ask them about these things in an open-ended and nonjudgmental way, you can expect an honest response. Always remember to give full attention to your children’s concerns and doubts.
Children in this age category are often willing to talk frankly with their parents. If you indulge in open discussions, they are more likely to share their views and opinions without hesitation. This way, even you can mold their thoughts in a positive direction without sounding judgmental or arrogant.
Also Read: What are the Physical Signs of Depression?
Ages 13 to 19:
Children between years 13 and 19 are likely to interact more with other kids who take drugs or alcohol. Many are also willing to express their feelings and concerns with parents about these substances. They sometimes may even ask you about these topics.
It is possible that your child might start consuming drugs or indulging in alcohol consumption in these tender years. Instead of scolding them, you must indulge them in healthy conversations. This way, you can learn more about their feelings and thoughts and tell them about the side-effects of alcohol and drug use. You must also inform them about legal issues like fines and jail time, and the possibility of someone might die due to excessive drug intake.
You can set specific verbal or written rules for your children about going out of the home. You can even promise them to pick them up at any time, without scolding them, if they contact you when any responsible person around them is drunk or using drugs. For instance, if you find out that someone used drugs in your vehicle while your child was behind the wheel, you can suspend their driving privilege for up to 6 months.
Talking openly about drugs and alcohol with your children early-on in their lives can do them a world of good. While this does not guarantee that they won’t get into this practice, it helps you create a safe space for them. If your child is already suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, be supportive and take them to the center for alcohol and drug treatment to kickstart their healing process.
This blog was reviewed by Dr. Anant (MBBS, DNB Psychiatry), a Consultant Psychiatrist at Safe House Premium. He has written articles for print media like NDTV and has recently written on Mental Health effects due to COVID. Dr. Anant specializes in treating Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, and de-addiction and rehabilitation of Alcohol and Drug dependence syndrome.