How to talk to your kids about drugs

No matter how much you try and protect them, your children are going to live in a world where drugs exist. Therefore it is important you learn how to talk to your kids about drugs without alienating them.

No matter how much you try and protect them, your children are going to live in a world where drugs exist.

Most of these drugs are what we’d all consider ‘good’ drugs. We’re talking about things like antibiotics, Panadol or insulin for diabetics. These are drugs that when used as prescribed by a doctor make us feel better and address any pain we may be feeling.

Then there’s what we would consider ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous’ drugs. Generally, these are the illegal drugs that have negative effects on the mind and body and have the potential to be fatal. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, crack, LSD and methamphetamine fall into this category. These kinds of illegal drugs can have a substantial effect on anybody’s health, but they affect children and teenagers in more damaging ways due to the nature of their growing bodies. Illegal drugs can severely damage the heart, brain and various other vital organs as well as affecting the learning ability of children and teenagers still in school[1].

Naturally, you want your children or teenagers to know the dangers of illegal drugs and make decisions in their lives that help keep them safe.

 

Tips on how to talk to your children about drugs (in a way that doesn’t alienate them)

Ages 4-7

Between the ages of 4-7, it’s best to talk to children in a simplistic, calm manner using language they understand.

  • There’s going to be times when someone in the household, either a child or an adult is going to need to take some medication. It might be that a little sibling is teething and needs some Panadol or Grandma needs to take her blood pressure medication. When this happens, explain to the child what the purpose of the medication is and why they are taking it.
  • When it comes up, talk about the dangers of drugs such as tobacco and alcohol as well as the benefits of healthy food and drinking lots of water. It’s always good to try and balance the negative with the positive.
  • Be honest about the specific effects of drugs but keep it simple.
  • There’s going to be times when the child sees drug use on television or overhears people talking about it. When this happens talk to them about the effects drug use has on their health.
  • If they ask questions, give them answers even if you need to go and find out those answers for yourself.

 

Ages 8-12

With children between the ages of 8-12 you need to approach conversations around drug use a little differently than what you need to with younger children.

  • Use a non-judgemental tone as to not alienate.
  • If they shut you down or blow you off let them know that you’re there to talk, whenever they need.
  • Be open to all their questions no matter how silly they may sound. Remember they’re just kids trying to learn about the world and they’re not always going to have the correct information. It’s part of your job to give them the correct information.
  • If it sounds as if the child has any false information, gently correct them with the correct information.

 

Ages 13-17

In this age range, it may not be uncommon for your child to actually know somebody who uses alcohol or drugs, so the questions they may have could be quite specific.

  • Your child is at the age now where they don’t want to hang out with mum and dad anymore. Instead they want to go to parties and hang out with their friends. This means their exposure to drugs and alcohol is going to be far more frequent than it had previously been. It also means they might be considering using either drugs or alcohol themselves. It’s during this period in their childhood that it’s good to set clear expectations. Be up front about how you want your child to behave and what the consequences of not meeting those expectations are.
  • Try and stay up to date with the various street names for various drugs and how they can affect the body.
  • Always keep the channels of communication open. You want to be able to openly talk to your child and for them to openly talk to you. The moment that your child starts to feel that you’re judging them, they will shut down.
  • Conversations are two-way streets. That means that your child gets to talk too, even if you don’t like what they might have to say[2].

 

You know how there’s that old saying that you can’t wrap your children up in cotton wool. Well, it’s true. Your job as a parent is to prepare your children for the world outside of your protection. Part of that world is filled with drugs and alcohol. It’s no use ignoring their existence and hoping for the best. The more information you arm your children with the better they’ll be able to navigate the world alone.

If you’re struggling with talking to your children about alcohol or drugs, you can speak with one of our experienced and qualified counsellors either on the phone or via chat.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling and want to speak to a professional counsellor, SuicideLine Victoria is available 24/7.

Call us on 1300 651 251

If it is an emergency, call 000.

 

References

[1] https://www.addictioncenter.com/teenage-drug-abuse/health-effects-teen-substance-abuse/

[2] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/talking-to-children-about-drugs

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