Talking with Kids About Drugs

Don’t put off talking to your children about alcohol and other drugs. As early as fourth grade, children worry about pressures to try drugs. School programs alone aren’t enough. Parents must become involved, but most parents aren’t sure how to talk to their children about drugs.

Open communication is one of the most effective tools you can use in helping your child avoid drug use. Talking freely and really listening show children they mean a great deal to you.

What do you say?
• Tell them that you love them and you want them to be healthy and happy.

• Say you do not find alcohol and other illegal drugs acceptable.

• Many parents never state this simple principle: Explain how drug use hurts people. Physical harm includes contracting diseases like AIDS, slowed growth, impaired coordination, and accidents. Emotional harm includes a sense of not belonging, isolation and paranoia. Educational harm includes difficulties remembering and paying attention.

• Discuss the legal issues. A conviction for a drug offense can lead to time in prison or cost someone a job, driver’s license or college loan.

• Talk about positive, drug-free alternatives and how you can explore them together. Some ideas include sports, reading, movies, bike rides, hikes, camping, cooking, games and concerts. Involve your child’s friends.

How do you say it?
• Calmly and openly — don’t exaggerate. The facts speak for themselves.

• Face to face — exchange information and try to understand each other’s point of view. Be an active listener and let your child talk about fears and concerns. Don’t interrupt and don’t preach.

• Through teachable moments — in contrast to a formal lecture, use a variety of situations, including television news, TV dramas, books and newspapers.

• Establish an ongoing conversation rather than giving a one-time speech.

• Remember to set the example. Avoid contradictions between your words and your actions. Don’t use illegal drugs, period!

• Be creative. You and your child might act out various situation in which one person tries to pressure the other to take a drug. Figure out two or three ways to handle each situation and talk about which works best. Exchange ideas with other parents.

How can I tell if a child is using drugs?
Identifying illegal drug use may help prevent further abuse. Possible signs include:

• Change in moods — more irritable, secretive, withdrawn, overly sensitive, inappropriately angry, euphoric. They may also become less responsible, such as being late coming home, late for school or class, and being dishonest.

• Changing friends or changing lifestyles, new interests, unexplained cash.

• Physical deterioration — difficulty in concentration, loss of coordination, loss of weight, unhealthy appearance.

Why do kids use drugs?
Young people say they turn to alcohol and other drugs for one or more of the following reasons:

• To do what their friends are doing

• To escape pain in their lives

• To fit in

• Boredom

• For fun

• Curiosity

• To take risks

Take A Stand!
• Educate yourself about the facts surrounding alcohol and other drug use. You will lose credibility with your child if your information is not correct.

• Establish clear family rules against drug use and enforce them consistently.

• Develop your parenting skills through seminars, networking with other parents, reading, counseling and support groups. Work with other parents to set community standards — you don’t raise a child alone.

• Volunteer at schools, youth centers or other activities in your community.

(Written by the Los Angeles Police Department. Provided by the 86th Security Forces Squadron)