Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol can be difficult, but it is essential. As a parent, you may be unsure how or when to bring up the topic. But if you or someone you love struggles with addiction, it is important to talk to your child early on to minimize their risk of developing a substance use disorder.
How to Begin the Talk
The United States Department of Health and Human Services, My Health Finder, advises that you start talking to your child as early as preschool. They list the following as reasons to start the conversation early:
- Nine out of 10 smokers start smoking before the age of 18.
- By the time they reach 8th grade, most children think it’s okay to use alcohol.
- By the age of 13, some children are using drugs such as marijuana or taking prescription pills.
To begin the conversation, choose a comfortable time and location. Start by talking about what interests your child to pave the way for a more serious talk.
You may want to ask questions to find out what your child knows already about drugs and alcohol. They may know more than you think. Children may have seen alcohol being used on commercials, TV shows, or at gatherings they have attended. They may know other children who have already tried drugs or alcohol, or have heard conversations by classmates.
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 80% of 10 to 18 year olds say that “their parents are the leading influence on their decision whether to drink.” Parents should be clear and tell their children that they do not approve of underage drinking or substance use.
Additional Tips for the Talk
In addition, you will want to teach your child the facts about drugs and alcohol and set guidelines for them to follow. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have. If you as a parent are struggling with addiction or have in the past, you can be honest with your child about this as well.
Finally, talk to your child about what to do if friends pressure them to use drugs and alcohol. Let them know that it is okay to say no and how to do this. Also let them know that you are there for them and that they can ask you any questions or share with you any of their worries or experiences.
The Dangers of Alcohol & Drugs
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that alcohol is the drug of choice for many young people, who may begin to experiment with alcohol in early adolescence. Alcohol can cause poor judgment and
affect the way one copes in situations. The risks associated with drinking at a young age are many:
- Alcohol-related traffic accidents are a major cause of death among young people.
- Alcohol is linked to deaths from drownings, suicide, and homicide.
- Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to be sexually active at an early age and have unprotected sex than teens who do not drink.
- Teens who drink are more likely to have school-related problems and issues.
- Young people who use alcohol are more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
- Those who drink at a young age are more likely to binge drink.
- Those who begin drinking at a young age are more likely to develop an alcohol dependency than those who do not begin drinking until adulthood.
Since drinking comes with many risks, it is important to discuss with your child early on the dangers of alcohol and why they should avoid using it.
Warning Signs in Children & Teens
There are several signs of a drug and alcohol problem among children or teens. These can include:
Mood changes other than typical childhood mood swings
- Problems at school
- Rebelling against rules at home
- Hanging out with new friends who they do not want you to meet
- Changes in appearance or hygiene
- Visible physical signs, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or a lack of coordination
- Finding drugs or alcohol in your child’s room or backpack
Help Is Available
If you are struggling with an alcohol or substance abuse problem, help is available at Twin Lakes Recovery Center. Contact us to speak to one of our professionals to learn more about our treatment options. We can provide family therapy and counseling as well as a variety of programs to meet your specific needs.