Last week we shared with you some guidance on talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol. We touched upon the importance of having a trusting relationship where your child feels safe enough to talk to you and we offered tips for approaching the issue at various ages. This week we offer a few more tips for keeping a healthy dialogue with your kids about this important subject.
In order to be a trust worthy, reliable source of information, you need to know the real risk factors about alcohol, marijuana, opioids and any other drugs that may be introduced to your child. Have a handle on how these effect the body, in what quantities, the long term damage and the potential legal ramifications. This will allow you to educate with facts rather than fear. And will allow you to clear up any misconceptions they may have. Remember, if they’re not getting reliable information from you, they’ll seek it somewhere else. Do the research and know your stuff!
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Simply ask them what they’re seeing in the way of drug and alcohol use around them. What are they observing at school? Among their peers? How do they feel about it? Listen attentively and without judgement. Allowing your child to speak without fear will open the door to healthy conversation and allow you to offer guidance. For example, it may be a springboard for the role-playing exercise we talked about last week. Or an opportunity to share the knowledge discussed above.
Remember the Importance of Modeling
Talking to your child about the dangers of alcohol abuse is likely to fall on deaf ears if you follow the conversation with five martinis at dinner. You are the most influential person in your child’s life and your behavior and your actions are being watched and internalized constantly. Make sure your actions are in line with your messages.
Make it Part of Daily Conversation
As we noted last week, “early and often” is key to having your messages heard. If drugs and alcohol are a taboo subject, your child will seek information elsewhere…and the reliability of that source is anyone’s guess. By starting at a young age and talking about it in a non-judgmental, caring way, discussions about drugs and alcohol become a component of your normal conversation instead of a censored or “touchy topic”.
Gather for Family Meals
Between work, school, sports and the hundreds of other daily demands, we know how challenging it is to get everyone around the table at one time for a meal. However, the benefits of eating together as a family five times a week are well documented and numerous. Among other things, family meals have been linked to lower risk of substance abuse and other high risk behaviors. A Columbia University study concluded that “parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children.” And we think you’ll agree that family dinners are good for the soul in all of us!
Talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol is too important to take lightly, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Our staff at Recovering Champions is always here to help.