With recent news fixated on the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman from a drug overdose and the crazy drug-laced antics of Justin Bieber, most children have at least heard about substance abuse, even if they don’t understand it. This would be the perfect time to educate your child about the dangers of drug abuse on a level they can understand.

Even as early as elementary school age, parents should start having conversations with their children about good medicine and bad medicine. If you have tweens and teens, you can have more in-depth conversations about how harmful drugs and alcohol can be.

How to talk to your child about drug abuse

It can be a little daunting to talk to your child about substance abuse, but statistics show that at least 50 percent of children who learn about the dangers of drug abuse from their parents are less likely to use drugs.

  • Use “teachable moments” such as the death of a celebrity or the bad behavior of a pop icon. Invite them to consider why the celebrity’s choices had such disastrous results, and how they could have made better choices.
  • Often media advertising makes drugs and alcohol look cool on TV and in the movies, so when those types of references are made, seize the moment and ask if they know how that particular substance can harm them. This will give you the opportunity to gauge their knowledge and insert subtle warnings without lecturing. With an older child you can go a little further by educating them on what crack looks like or some of the street names associated with certain drugs.
  • Consider that many tweens and teens start using drugs because of peer pressure. Let them know that kids who try to encourage them to smoke and drink alcohol are not really friends at all. A good friend is someone who shares their core values and will not pressure them into doing something they are not comfortable with.
  • Others may feel pressure to succeed in school or suffer from depression which could lead to substance abuse. Talk about these feelings with your child and reassure them that they can come and talk to you any time without judgment.
  • Kids who feel good about themselves are much less likely to become involved with drugs and alcohol. Always offer positive reinforcement to enhance your child’s self-worth. Say “I love you” as often as possible. Spend one-on-one time with each child every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Getting kids involved in sports and extracurricular activities is also a great way to build self-esteem and make healthy friendships.

If you suspect your child may have a substance abuse problem, please consult your family physician or a mental health professional as soon as possible. Some of the signs you can look for are extreme moodiness, becoming withdrawn, loss of weight, glassy eyes, and/or poor grades in school. Another sign is if you suspect some of your medication is missing or “disappearing” faster than it should. The sooner you address the problem, the faster your child – and your family – can get on the road to recovery.

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