Talking to your children about drugs can be tough for many reasons. One, you may have done drugs yourself in your youth. When you say “Don’t do drugs!” the obvious retort is “Why not? You did!” On the other hand, if you never did drugs, you may come across like you don’t know what you’re talking about, as in “How do you know they’re bad? You never tried them!” Woven into all the strained conversation is the fact that kids will often do the exact opposite of what you tell them. This wreaks havoc on the sanity of the parent. We love our children and want them out of harm’s way. We want them making the correct and sensible decisions.
Those last words – “correct and sensible decisions” – are factually the key to how to discuss drugs and alcohol with your kids. You want them making the right choices on their own steam, on their own cognizance (knowledge, awareness) – because they know, deep down, what is best for them. Can you “stop” a teenager from doing something? You can ground them or take away their privileges, but this only goes so far. Sooner or later, if they really want to do something, they’re going to find a way to do it. So you’ve got to impart things like knowledge, wisdom, and good judgment or you’ll lose to a greater or lesser degree.
Why do kids get attracted to drugs? There are really an infinite number of reasons. But, they can be boiled down to POSITIVE and NEGATIVE forces:
On the “positive” end of the spectrum, one can be interested in drugs because of the prospect of feeling good or getting high. The sensation of drug-induced euphoria has an appeal unto itself. Hallucinogenic plants have been used for centuries by shamans in many parts of the world as an attempt to reach a spiritual plateau. Moving forward to the 1960’s, synthetic psychedelic drugs like LSD were heavily promoted as a way to “expand consciousness.” Incidentally, LSD was used prior to the 60’s by the CIA as an experimental truth serum in political interrogations.
On the “negative” side, people use drugs in an attempt to get rid of things they don’t want – their fears, insecurities, sadness, painful memories, etc. They want to lose something. They want to get rid of something. A young man has been convinced since an early age that he was an accident. His parents were never married and never intended to have him, yet he was born anyway. He feels as though his very existence was an unintentional mistake. He uses drugs to try to make that bad idea go away. He uses them to just not care anymore. Or he uses them with friends who seem to be happy that he exists. His ideas about his parents may be entirely inaccurate, but that’s how he chooses to see it.
What are some of the ways to talk to your kids about drug and alcohol abuse?
Points to Remember
- Talk About It
This means exactly what it says. But it doesn’t mean you say words and they don’t listen – or vice versa. Practice listening to them, understanding what they have to say, acknowledging them (letting them know you have received the communication and understand it), and delivering your communication in such a way that they understand it. Try stepping out of the parent mold slightly and just be their friend. Could take some work. Find out what has been going on. Have they been using drugs or alcohol? Are they considering it? Is someone talking in their other ear and encouraging it? Talk about it.
- Speak the Truth
Be honest. If you’re worried about them overdosing then say that. If you’re worried about them being given “roofies” (slang for Rohypnol, a powerful sedative, illegal in the US) and being date-raped (or worse) then say that. If you’re concerned about them driving while drunk or riding with someone who is, then state that. Get them to speak the truth. In other words, don’t settle for the glossed-over version.
Educate yourself about drugs and alcohol. Learn about the new synthetic drugs that have made their way onto schoolyards and into our homes. Get informed on prescription drug abuse, a serious problem affecting millions of people. Drug education is one of your chief weapons – ammo included – against drug and alcohol abuse.
Educate your children about drugs and alcohol. What essentially is a drug? What do they do to the body, mind, and spirit? What kinds of chemicals and toxic substances are added to drugs when they get cooked up in secret labs? When pushers spout lines about the glories of getting high and how their drugs are “not addictive,” what are they trying to do? Could it be they are trying to get new customers who then stay hooked? Real drug education is not a dry lecture promptly forgotten. Some sites are listed below that provide a captivating way to educate youth.
- Prescription Drug Abuse
One important thing to add is that drug education these days must include knowledge on prescription drug abuse. Kids chew on psychotropic prescription meds like candy and can quickly become addicted. Painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin are high on the list, as well as psychiatric drugs like Adderall and Ritalin (stimulants), and Xanax and Klonopin (tranquilizers). Kids even attend “punch bowl parties” where they get free meds and mix them up – highly dangerous and potentially lethal. Some educational sites are listed below.
- Why Are They Interested in Drugs?
Using all the techniques noted above, see if you can find out what forces are at work in the young person’s life. These are the “positive and negative” elements described above. They may find drugs appealing as an experiment. They may have a number of negative influences in their lives. This can be hard for a parent because you could very well be part of the problem for the child – whether you realize it or not. You may need to do some repair work on your relationship with your kid, or call in the other parent or another trusted friend or family member. Only you can properly assess your family’s situation. Maybe your kid has trouble talking to girls and feels alcohol will provide just the right amount of boldness he needs. Maybe your daughter is bullied for being overweight.
You won’t be able to solve all of their problems right then and there. In fact, it works better if you don’t “solve their problems for them” but rather help them to solve their own problems. The “teach a man to fish” theory is really not bad advice. What you want to impart is that drugs simply do not solve their problems. They ultimately succeed in making them worse. In contrast, if they know how to effectively deal with some of the troubles in their lives, they will start to see that they can rise above those troubles.
- Establishing Goals
When a child has goals in life, they are far less likely to sink into drug and alcohol abuse. Career, sports, schoolwork, music, art – whatever their chosen fields of interest are, when they have a good sound goal and a plan to get there, they may simply decide to skip drugs altogether because it doesn’t fit in with their plan. Ideally, they will look upon drugs as a hindrance to what they want to get done.
- Independent Thought
Going back to the first factors taken up in this article, you want them making rational, correct, and sensible decisions – independent of you! You can’t hover over their shoulder or speak into their earpiece and tell them what to say. One way to help them is to coach them in a role-playing format. You pretend you’re a peer or someone offering pills. How do they deal with it? You can really put them on the spot. Make it REAL because they WILL be in such situations! Highly technical professions like airplane pilots and the military do drills and simulations all the time in order to prepare them for events that will potentially occur. Why not do drills for life itself? When push comes to shove, they’ll have to stand alone no matter what their “friends” say.
- Be an Instant Resource
Lastly, be available 24/7. Should they wind up in a rough situation, they should not hesitate to call you. If a carload of teenagers is heading out with a driver who has been drinking, your child should be able to call you at a moment’s notice. This is their last line of defense. They should know you’ll just show up and drive them home. You won’t get mad and you can talk about it later.
Your kids are growing up in a different climate than you did. The internet and social media, while it has accelerated communication beyond belief, has many drawbacks in terms of popularizing destructive behavior. Understand what your kids are dealing with.
Talk about it, speak the truth, educate yourself and your kids, discuss the appeal of drugs, have some real conversations about their troubles, help them establish their goals and interests, help them to be independent spirits who can make up their own minds and do not succumb to the wishes of others more ignorant than themselves, and lastly, be on call as a last resort. Do all this and your child should emerge a wiser person, enlightened on the hard truths of drug and alcohol abuse, and hopefully impervious to all the lies.
One last point, it is a continuous process. Good luck!