Drug abuse is an unfortunate part of our culture and something parents need to be aware of and talk about with their children. Opening discussion airwaves early can benefit the entire family. If children feel they can easily talk about things with parents, they'll be less likely to look for answers in their friends. Make drugs a part of your general conversation about health, wellness and safety.
The following points are 10 tips taken from Start Talking! an initiative in Ohio empowering parents to raise their children to be drug-free.
- Talk frequently - Make it a habit to talk with your child daily about everyday stuff. Once you have made it a routine to talk about normal, everyday activities, it is easier to steer conversations to more intense discussions about drug use. Talking to your kids about drugs is not a one-time conversation, it should be a regular part of your weekly routine.
- Show interest - Give your child your full attention when they’re talking. Be interested and listen to what they are saying. Show that you are willing to take them seriously and their comments and opinions matter.
- Be careful what you say - Avoid being judgmental or talking down to them once your child expresses thoughts or feelings about drug use. Even if you do not agree, be willing to hear your child’s viewpoint and allow him or her to express it without criticism.
- Be careful how you say it - Be aware of your tone of voice and body language. Sometimes it isn’t what we say but how it’s said. Avoid sounding shocked, angry or disgusted by comments your child may make. Remember, these conversations are difficult for your child too, and they may not have the conversational skills to express everything they want to say in the most mature way.
- Know the facts about drugs/alcohol/tobacco - The more you know about substance abuse, the more confident you will be when conversing with your child. The Parent 360 Rxprogram is a good way to learn updated information on drugs and alcohol and what kids may be experiencing and hearing away from home. Experts say informed parents are more successful in their talks with kids.
- Be respectful and genuine - Respect what your child has to say and be fully engaged in the conversation. Be sincere in your reactions and honestly interested in their viewpoint. Kids are more likely to talk about drugs and alcohol on a regular basis, if they know their comments will be listened to and valued.
- They talk, you listen - Avoid interrupting your child as they talk. Resist lecturing when it’s your turn to talk.
- Scare tactics don’t work - Prevention experts advise that scare tactics and over-dramatic statements will not get the attention of your child. Consistent, calm and frequent conversations on the topic are a far better way to go.
- Control your emotions - If the talk gets heated and you show anger or frustration, the child will likely stop the conversation. Set emotions aside, listen carefully, offer facts, experience and expectations without harsh judgment.
- Take advantage of teachable moments - Teachable moments occur each day. You may be listening to the radio or watching TV when an ad comes on, or situation or news story which involves drugs or alcohol. Use this to bring up the topic and get your child’s reaction. Another good time is when you’re in the car. The child is a captive audience. No one is forced to look face-to-face and your child may feel comfortable to talk freely.