With teen addiction on the rise, parents should raise their children’s awareness about the harmful effects of drugs and other substances before they have the opportunity to experiment with them. For some families, the need to educate children comes from having a parent with an addiction. Education is always the first step toward prevention. As parents, you are first in line with that responsibility. Your views on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs as well as your lifestyle matter because they can help the younger generation.
When Should I Talk to My Child About Substances?
Most children get exposed to substance use in their late teens, so it is wise to talk with them about the topic prior to that. However, you want these conversations to be age-appropriate. Your message should be founded on having a healthy lifestyle, not on fear or judgment.
For example, during the preschool years, it is important to educate children about the benefits of healthy living and the negative consequences of making unhealthy choices. This is the time to help them grow into a routine of a balanced diet, good sleep patterns, and regular exercise.
When children enter school, they may be subject to peer influence, which in the future may become a risk factor for substance use. As a parent, take an interest in their friends and allow your children to bring problems to you without fear. Establish a safe communication channel between you and your child about any topic.
Parents should begin warning children about the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes around this time. In your own life, try to model sobriety and limit your use of alcoholic drinks in front of children. Whenever children see scenes of alcohol use on TV or in movies, use them as a way to discuss these issues.
As children grow older, they will start to show a stronger self-opinion and independent thinking. Try to continue the conversation around substance use at an age-appropriate level as they mature. In addition, you might give specific rules and even role-play situations they might encounter in the future. Most importantly, this is the time you should help your children build their self-confidence so they are better prepared to withstand peer pressure.
How Should I Talk to My Teen About Substance Use?
Parents should open up lines of conversation about their teen’s emotions and thoughts. Help your child get access to materials about emotional and mental health so they know how to practice self-care in these areas. This may also be the time to talk about some safety or legal issues around substance use. For example, educate them on how possessing certain drugs may lead to fines and jail time. Teach them facts about illicit drugs and overdose.
When your children become more independent, consider making a contract regarding the rules about going out with friends. Ensure you are always the person to call when they feel unsafe or have indulged in substances. Promise to pick them up at any time with no questions asked; the most important thing is to make sure they are safe, and you can always talk about consequences and future choices the next day. Meanwhile, find new hobbies to participate in together as a family. A warm, open family environment is often the strongest preventative measure against external risks.
How Do Recovering Parents Talk With Their Children About Substance Use?
Children who live in homes where there is or has been parental addiction can find life confusing and challenging. They may receive inconsistent messaging from their parents who once had an addictive lifestyle. In these circumstances, talking with children about the harmful effects of substance addiction is not an easy task. For the sake of your children’s future health, it is a conversation that needs to happen. Ignoring the issue will only increase your children’s risk of developing an addiction in the future.
First, educate yourself and make sure you are sharing accurate information about substance use. Always begin the conversation by assuring your children you love them. Be honest and open about your or your partner’s substance abuse struggles. Older children should have all the facts about their parent’s addiction. Allow them to ask questions and try to answer honestly.
Educate your children on refraining from experimenting with drugs or alcohol because, given their early exposure to parental addiction, the chances of them developing a similar addiction are much higher than for other kids. Explain the fact that, because substance use can reshape brain development for young people, and they are genetically predisposed to becoming addicted, it is more harmful if they experiment with drugs or alcohol.
An open line of communication between parents and children is critical for addiction prevention. Invest time in listening to what is happening in their lives, good or bad. If parents are strong in their viewpoints and lifestyle about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol, that will build a strong protection system in the understanding of a child from early on.
If you are a parent recovering from substance addiction, do you know how to talk to your children about it? Children who live in homes where there is parental addiction can find the issue of substance use confusing and challenging. They may receive inconsistent messaging from their parents who once had an addictive lifestyle. Talking with children about the harmful effects of addiction is not easy, but it is necessary. Though it’s hard to talk about, ignoring the issue will only increase the risk of your children developing substance use in the future. You can work with recovery professionals to care for the entire family. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we have a team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists who can coach you through educating your child about the dangers of substance use or navigating the path when a child has become addicted. Work with us to have a new beginning. Call (866) 906-3203.