The Sooner the Better: Why It’s Never Too Early to Teach Kids About the Dangers of Drug Abuse
One of the quickest and most effective ways for kids to learn is by watching how other people do things. It’s how many of us learned how to walk, talk, and tie our shoes. This is also how many children learn how to handle drugs and alcohol.
Even if your kids aren’t thinking about drugs yet, they’re watching. This is why it’s so important for you to maintain a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol. If your kids see you abusing either, they’re more likely to turn to substance abuse later in life.
Your actions speak volumes, but that doesn’t mean you should refrain from using words. Your children will process things better if they understand what’s really going on. This is why in addition to maintaining a healthy outward relationship, you should start talking to them about the dangers of drug abuse from an early age.
Here are some ideas for talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol:
Start talking about medicine when they’re young
When your children are toddlers, it’s probably not appropriate to discuss topics like substance abuse or addiction. However, it is appropriate to explain medicine in simple terms. Talk about how small amounts, when taken according to label instructions, can make you feel better when you’re sick, but too much can make you very ill. Sometimes, kids enjoy the flavor of medicine. If this happens with your child, use it as a teachable moment.
Explain to your child that medicine is not like candy and they may have to go to the hospital if they have too much.
As your kids get a little older, you can explain the differences between over-the-counter medications and medicines that doctors prescribe. This is a good time to talk about how medicines come in various strengths, which makes some more dangerous than others.
Don’t hide or joke about alcohol
It’s okay if your kids see you drinking alcohol every now and again. Don’t try to hide it from them or they may associate shame with alcohol, which can be dangerous. Instead, tell them exactly what you’re drinking and why. Let them know that it’s something adults can enjoy every once in a while. But much like medicine, it can be harmful if you have too much.
Avoid jokes that make light of drinking irresponsibly or alcoholism, like saying your coffee mug might be filled with wine. Even if they know you’re kidding, it sends the wrong message to an impressionable young mind. You may also want to avoid saying things like, “I need a drink after this.” Adults get the joke, but to kids, it sounds like alcohol is a solution to your problem.
As your kids get older and become teens, you can talk about how some people incorrectly use alcohol (and drugs) to self-medicate. And inevitably, this always causes larger problems in the long run.
Use every opportunity to have a conversation
When it’s just you talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol, it can start to feel like a lecture. Try to rely on outside input to help drive the message home. You can have other people talk to your kids about substance abuse and use stories on the news to start conversations.
With the current addiction epidemic, it’s common to see stories of overdose or drug-related crime on the nightly news. Although unfortunate, this affords you many opportunities to illustrate the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
Proactively address peer pressure
You can start talking about peer pressure very early in your child’s life. Start by talking about the types of peer pressure your child may face. These may include pressures like doing dangerous stunts on a bike or vandalizing school property. Teach your child the importance of making their own decisions. This way, they will understand consequences to be direct results of their own choices.
Prevention can begin as early as elementary school, and it doesn’t have to be entirely drug-focused yet. If you teach your child how to think independently and avoid peer pressure, they will be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol later.
Start talking today
The number of children who have been admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled between 2004 to 2015, according to a Pediatrics study. This is an important issue that we all need to address, but the conversations must begin at home. Start talking to your kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol as soon as you can.
Trevor McDonald is a content writer for Detox Local. He is also a recovering addict and alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help share treatment resources and spread addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.