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Talking to Kids About Alcohol And Drugs

Helping kids and teens make the right choices about alcohol and drugs are very important. Some surveys reveal that kids who feel comfortable talking to their parents about alcohol are less likely to indulge in those habits.

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It can be slightly challenging and awkward to talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs due to fear or the risk of letting them know about it too early. But kids get exposed to videos and songs glorifying the use of drugs and alcoholic drinks. Kids see alcoholic drinks around, kids see people smoking in public, etc. In this article, we will share insights on the best strategies you can use when talking to your kids about drugs.

Helping kids and teens make the right choices about alcohol and drugs are very important. Some surveys reveal that kids who feel comfortable talking to their parents about alcohol are less likely to indulge in those habits. So how do you set the right boundaries while building the right relationship with your kids?

Start as Early as possible

Talk to your children about alcohol and drugs from their primary school years. The ADF suggests 8 years old but because of the advance of technology, peer pressures begin from a much younger age.

We recommend that you begin from age four or five years. It is not as though you are expecting them to experiment from this age. But by beginning early enough, you gain the power to help shape your child’s inner beliefs.

Getting ready to talk to your kids about alcohol and drugs

Relying on your experiences and perception towards these substances is not enough. To feel confident, you must research and get facts about these substances. Kids are more prone to listen to facts than just your perceptions about what they shouldn’t do. To be frank, you need not tell your child about your experiences with alcohol and drugs.

But when your kids ask about your experiences, it’s often better, to tell the truth than lie about it. Even if your experience goes against the “talk”, tell them about it as a cautionary tale. Be honest about how you regret taking those steps and how It can be different for them.

Become a role model

It’s not enough to tell your kids about alcohol and hard drugs consumption. Your behavior is equally important. It’s important to be consistent in your messaging and actions. Don’t indulge in excessive drinking or drunk driving.

You should also show them it’s possible to relax and have fun without drinking too much alcohol. Refuse a drink when you don’t want it or have had enough. Even when you feel as though your kids are not really watching, they will surprise you about the clues they pick from your actions. Never underestimate the influence you have on your child’s choices.

Drawing the line between expectations and friendship

It’s important that you don’t raise the awareness in your kids that you expect them to experiment. Such expectations may mean differently for your child. To you, experimentation means a onetime drinking affair. To your kids, they may feel that these expectations allow them to practice drinking and drug abuse from time to time. Maintain the image that you don’t want them to indulge in these habits. Make them understand that you trust them not to ever indulge in those habits. 

But it is also important you build the awareness, that even if they make such reckless decisions, you will always be there to guide (rather than judge) them towards a better lifestyle.

Help them build their self-esteem

You can’t shield your kids from the evils of the world. But you can help them face the world’s problems. Help your kid learn more about the impact of their choices and responsibilities. These will help them feel more secure in decision making and realize the consequences of bad choices.

In addition, kids who have low self-esteem are more likely to turn to alcohol and substance abuse to feel better. Help them feel confident in their abilities. Shower them with praises and encouragements and ensure to build an intimate relationship with your kids.

Scare tactics don’t work

It’s important to state the facts about the consequences of drugs and alcohol without appearing a judge. Never overstate the case. A lot of evidence has shown that scaring your kids or being too strict only produces the opposite effects. In fact, your kids may feel resentful towards you when they feel accused. You may lose the position of a mentor as they will seek to favor their friends than make the right choices for themselves.

Doing the talk; tips for the different age gaps

Starting early is very important. But different age groups require different tactics.  For instance, you can’t talk to a teenager in the same manner you have used since they were in kindergarten. On the flip side, too much details may confuse your little one. Therefore, here are the various approaches you can use with your kids of different age brackets.

For kids aged 4-7

Use a two-pronged approach when talking to them about alcohol and drugs. This means you have to tell them about what’s good for them and what’s not. Share simple information about the dangers of alcohol, smoking, and drugs.

Encourage them to talk to you about the hard drugs they have heard about on the media and provide honest information about what that specific drug does to their bodies. Be specific in your information about these effects but remember to keep it simple. If your kids need more information, don’t hesitate to give it to them.

Talking to kids aged 8-12 about drugs/alcohol

In a casual non-judging manner, talk to them about these substances. Let them know that you are always ready to talk to them about these substances. Pay close attention to their questions and concerns. Even when your child has false information, use a calm and collected approach to teach them differently. If they come to you about a drug- or alcohol-related news they have heard, explain the situation in details. Make them know about the consequences of the use of that substance.

Talking to kids aged 13 – 17 about drugs

Know that kids in these age groups are predisposed to using these substances. Set the right boundaries or rules about things like going out or buying things. But try as much as possible to give punishments on a case-by-case scenario. Stay up to date about the street names of drugs and how each drug affects the body. Pay more attention to your child’s thoughts and feelings about substance use. Explain with precise facts about what may happen to them if they use these substances.

When you don’t have all the answer

Researching is very important. But it’s not expected that you should have all the answers before talking to them. If they ask you about a drug, you have never heard off. Researching about that drug together is a great way to bond and let your child know that you are happy to help them.

Be honest about the perks and cons of taking these substances at a young age. An honest and credible conversation is always the best way to build trust and help your child make the best decisions.

Never assume you have done enough of “the talk”. The idea behind talking to them about it at different age gaps is that you continually teach them about using drugs and alcohol.

You must understand, that as a parent, you pay a crucial role in keeping your kids safe from the harms of substance abuse.

Don’t underestimate your influence but strive to become not just a mentor to your kids but their friend. Your attitude and behavior towards your kids can help them make the right decisions. Accept that your child would come to make choices for his/herself.

But by proving a strong and positive flow of information, you will help shape their future for the better.

-Chidera Onyeagubor

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