How do we talk to our kids about drugs and alcohol?
When talking to kids about alcohol and substance abuse, sooner is better than later. It seems that in our media-driven culture, young people are constantly given messages that normalize this behaviour. They’re introduced to these habits at a very young age, something that is likely to increase with the imminent legalization of marijuana. How we talk to our kids about drugs and alcohol use is paramount to their relationship to addictive substances.
In this conversation, we are likely to get asked about our own experiences with drinking and or drugs; they are going to want to know our stories.
- Do we or did we overindulge or have addictions ourselves?
- Are there family members or friends who deal with addiction and its negative consequences?
- How do we personally understand addiction and alcoholism?
Here are some fundamentals about addiction that are worth mentioning to your children when discussing the root of addiction.
- No one starts experimenting with substances to become addicted, it occurs through repeated ongoing use where tolerance is built up.
- In the beginning stages – a relatively small amount of a substance causes an effect of relaxation or nervous system stimulation. Over time and repeated use, it takes more and more substance to create that same effect or level of high, the result is addiction.
If you’re worried about your that your teen may be abusing drugs or alcohol, look for these signs of problem substance use:
- Isolation to the exclusion of stoner friends
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and changes in motivation levels or general apathy
- Secrecy or outright deception regarding where they spend time and money
- Missing money or asking for money
- Late nights outs, overtiredness or other sleep disturbances
- Odd speech patterns or disturbed thinking
Many other issues may arise and, if not addressed, could escalate to the point of criminality. It’s not an easy talk to have, but it’s important to discuss alcohol and substance use with your children before you start to notice signs. You should also prepare yourself for a series of talks; substance use should be an ongoing conversation until your child has the maturity to make the best decisions for themselves.
Here are some starting points when talking to kids about substance use:
- Talk about drugs in terms of health, wellness, ongoing happiness and purpose.
- Ask directly about what they are involved in, be honest about your concerns.
- Dispel the myth that marijuana is harmless, the developing brain is susceptible to negative effects from overuse of THC.
- Point out drug use and overuse in movies, tv, and media – calling out when it’s unrealistic or glorified. This is an opportunity to point out the negative consequences of using substances .
- Practice with young kids saying no to substance offerings in many different ways.
- Role model abstinence or at a minimum moderation.
Many young people start with substance use because of the cultural myth that using and drinking will lead to good times and perhaps even spiritual insights. Discuss the importance of having fun in valuable ways and developing their own spiritual awareness free from drugs and alcohol.
If you’re concerned about a member of your family substance use, please call Aurora Recovery Centre to talk to us about recovery treatment options. We’re here to heal, connect and recover your loved ones.
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