Starting the conversation early is very important when it comes to drugs and alcohol. These days, kids are exposed to these vices at an ever-younger age, which means that it’s crucial to educate them now on how to handle situations that may come up.
Try to find “teachable moments” during your interactions with your kids. If your child is a little younger, consider these two examples:
• If your child sees someone who is acting drunk, you can explain to him or her that consuming alcohol and certain drugs in excess can lead to bad situations – including addiction.
• If you yourself consume alcohol, be a good role model and use that moment to explain that consumption of alcohol in particular can be normal for many adults, so long as they do not over-consume.
With an older child, teachable moments can occur at the dinner table on a regular basis. Examples include talking about the behavior of their friends at a party or a bad decision that someone at school has made. Ask them about their day-to-day lives and use those examples as a discussion starter on how they would approach the situation. Below are some topics to help open up those lines of communication:
• Who are they hanging out with?
• What’s going on in their life? On the weekends?
As a parent, you also need to be acutely aware of your children’s behavior in order to head off any possible addiction issues early. Changes in patterns offer the strongest warnings: falling grades, changes in moods, changes in sleep habits, etc. If left undetected, addiction can rapidly spiral out of control.
All this, however, comes down to one word: communication. Regular communication can help build trust and openness on the topic. Be a good listener, and let your child know that he or she can talk to you about any subject, no matter how sensitive. Boys Town Parenting has a full guide on Substance Abuse and a guide on Communication. Within these guides, you can find information on starting the discussion and what to do if you suspect abuse.
This November 19, there will be a National Night of Conversation, where families all across America are urged to start the discussion of drugs and alcohol abuse. There will be a hashtag, #NightOfConversation, which people can use to follow the discussion on Twitter. And as a nod to the fact that the conversation will be more important than the food itself, people will be posting pictures of empty plates on social media. Join Boys Town in the discussion and take the next step to keeping your family a substance abuse-free family.