One of the most important things you can educate your children about is the effect of illicit drugs, but you may find it hard to begin. Where do you start, and what do you start with?
Here are six ways to help you bridge the gap so that you can have that very important conversation without further delay, and before your teen ends up potentially learning the wrong things from the wrong people.
1. Fill the Silence
Use any block of conversation time to bring up the subject, like the drive to or from school, or after dinner. Explain the kinds of drugs that are out there, what it is about drugs that makes them so harmful, and why they should feel nothing less than confident when turning down drugs if offered.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
When a drug or alcohol-related situation comes up in a movie, TV show, commercial, etc., take the opportunity to ask how your child feels about that situation. “What do you think about that?” is a great first question to start with. This allows you to bring up the subject without them feeling like they are being put on the spot, and it allows you to share with them your own values and ideas.
3. Watch TV with Your Kids
Speaking of TV, watching TV should be an interactive experience, where parents and children discuss what they have just seen. How do the programs you watch with your teen depict drugs? Do they show them to be acceptable and positive, or negative and detrimental to someone’s health? Ask your children how they feel about the drug use they’ve just watched. You can even use anti-drug commercials and programs to jumpstart the conversation.
4. Point Out Everyday Situations
Point out situations in your neighborhood where people are drinking or smoking and use those situations as a chance to talk to your kids about drugs. If you see a group of underage children drinking in a parking lot, for example, you can use this opportunity to explain the ill effects of substance abuse and how it can affect those kids’ futures.
5. Talk about Headlines
It’s sad, but true - pick up any newspaper and you can find a headline about drugs or alcohol - especially lately with the heroin and opioid epidemics - to talk about with your children. Talk to them about the mother who lost her children because she was a drug abuser.
Help them to understand what may now happen to her children, that they might end up in foster care and being adopted before the mother has a chance to get them back, and that this could cause the mother to spiral even further out of control. Importantly, talk about how all of this would have been preventable if they had just said no.
6. Look for “Teachable Moments” Every Day
Try not to harp on the subject, or you’ll just end up sounding like an after-school special that your teen will tune out, but there are always opportunities in everyday life that open up the possibility for a “teaching moment” for parents. Whether it’s the aforementioned teens drinking in the parking lot of the grocery store after dark, or whether you walk past a homeless person on the street who is drinking from a paper bag, there are endless opportunities to give you the opening you need to have the ever-important drugs discussion with your children.