If you’re putting off the drug and alcohol talk, you’re not alone. Most parents dread this talk for a variety of reasons. But that doesn’t mean you should keep hitting the snooze button on this one. This is an important talk for everyone to have, especially in light of the current opioid epidemic.
Here are some of the more common concerns about having the drug and alcohol talk (and how to address them).
- It’s too early
Some parents put the talk off because they think it’s too early to worry about these things. Why plant the seed before your child even knows what drugs are?
Although it is important to keep the conversation age appropriate, it’s actually better for your child to learn about drugs through you. This way, you’ll have control over how the conversation goes.
You can start talking to kids as early as two about how and why you’re only supposed to take small amounts of medicine – and only when you need it. It’s never too early to talk about drugs or alcohol.
- I feel like a hypocrite
Parents who experimented with drugs as teens often have a hard time addressing the issue with their kids. Naturally, they don’t want their children to follow the same path, but they don’t want to sound like hypocrites either.
If this sounds like you, think about what might have stopped you from experimenting and lead with that. You can be honest about your history (leaving out any sordid details), but add the “if I had known…” element to the conversation. If you had known that drug use could have a lasting effect on your memory, you wouldn’t have done it. Focus heavily on the negative effects that drugs have had on your life, and you can turn your history into a teaching experience.
- My kid knows more than I do
When our kids enter high school, they might have a good base knowledge of recreational drugs and what they do. They probably know all the street slang for the latest drugs too. In that way, they may know more than you. But they aren’t learning about all the dangers of these drugs from their friends. That’s where you come in.
Don’t get intimidated if you don’t know what Z-Bars are (it’s Xanax, by the way). All drugs and alcohol work by hijacking your brain’s reward center. Some are more addictive and dangerous than others, but you don’t need to know them all by name to have this conversation.
- It’s too late
Even if you’re sure your child has experimented with drugs or alcohol, it’s not too late to have this conversation. In fact, it’s a great time to start talking.
Your child made a misguided choice without having all the information. Now, it’s time to give him all the info. Avoid telling him things like, “drugs aren’t cool.” If he’s already tried them, it’s likely because he does think they’re cool. But that’s irrelevant. Stick to the facts about what drugs can do to a person’s body and life. Show before and after pictures of addicts and talk about how addiction grabs some people sooner than others. You never know when you’ll get addicted, but there’s a chance every time you abuse a substance.
Don’t worry about what your kids will think or if the conversation feels awkward. The most important thing is that you start talking. Also, as your kids get older, it’s helpful to think of this as an ongoing discussion instead of just one conversation. It does get easier as you talk more.