Having open conversation with kids is very crucial. Just as parents talk about illnesses, its prevention, it is important to talk about drugs by its dangers and ways to overcome risky situation. Talking to children about complex topic especially alcohol and drugs is challenging, hence most parents avoid talking about the topic. When children don’t get answers from parents or reliable source, they're likely to seek answers elsewhere, largely from unreliable sources. Usually children who are not properly informed are at risk of succumb to peer pressure and experimenting with drugs. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations. Parents are role models for their children so your views on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs can strongly influence the views of children. Following are few tips to talk about drugs including alcohol.
Assess use of drugs in family and take appropriate action. Research suggests that family members’ use of alcohol and drugs plays a strong role in whether children/teens start using drugs. Parents, grandparents, and older brothers and sisters are models that children follow. Therefore, identify who in the family uses drug or alcohol, its frequency and what are the reasons for the use. If some adult member/s is/are dependent on drugs/alcohol then first you need to address that before you tell anything to children about drugs.
Gather scientific information on drugs: First, it is important to gather scientific information about drugs. There are lots of misconceptions around drugs and before you talk about this topic, you should have adequate scientific information. You may gather information from Government’s website, reliable book and through reliable online resource.
Provide age appropriate information: Talking about drugs at appropriate age with appropriate information is crucial; otherwise discussion on such topic may have unwanted effects. With my experience, I categorize children into three groups, children between 3 to 8 years, 9 to 14 years, 15-19 years, who need to be informed strategically.
Focus on the facts; give your children factual, age appropriate information about alcohol and other
drugs. Make talking about drugs a part of your general health and safety conversations with your child. While talking, be specific and to the point. Briefly talk about legal and illegal drug, its effects on body and life, risk of overdose, and the other long-term damage they can cause. Use these conversations not only to understand your child's thoughts and feelings, but also to talk about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Talk about the legal issues and the possibility that they or someone else might be seriously injured.
Keep your explanations short, simple and precise. Don’t tell children “too much”. Provide necessary
information. Have conversation, not lecture. Children respond better to conversation than to lectures.
Answer child questions. Children like to ask questions; be ready to listen to and address their questions. Keep the tone of these discussions calm and use terms that your child can understand.
Discuss and clarify things they see on television. Many a time media portray a use of alcohol and other drugs. Start taking advantage of "teachable moments.” If you see a character on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking and what smoking does to a person's body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they can potentially cause harm. This gives them the facts so they can counteract television bias.
Share your stand and perspective on drug use clearly. Clearly tell what you expect your children to avoid. Include your values and emotions in your discussion, assertive techniques to avoid drug use, ways to overcome drug dependence and resources available about drugs. Repeat yourself often; reinforcement is necessary.