Prevention Corner: How Do I Talk to My Kids About Drugs?

March 7th, 2019

Q&A with Jessica Liria, M.S. | Supervisor of Prevention Services

Q: I know I should be having discussions with my kids about drugs, but I have no idea what to say. How do I bring it up?

A: It may seem tough, or uncomfortable, to talk about substance use, especially if you have younger children. But youth today are exposed to so much that the more we talk to them about what they see, the better. Alcohol and drugs are everywhere they look – in movies, TV shows, music, advertisements, and magazine covers. And depending on your children’s ages, they may even have friends who experiment with substances. You don’t need a long, drawn-out discussion that covers everything at once. Frequent conversations that last only a few minutes are actually better! Look for teachable moments throughout the day, like driving them to school or sports practice, or during a commercial break when watching TV.

Ask them about what they’ve heard or seen, and get to know how they feel about it. Use positive messages that focus on what it means to be healthy and what it takes to reach their goals and be successful. Then explore how using substances can interfere with that.

For more information and resources, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) www.drugabuse.gov, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) www.nimh.nih.gov, and www.activeparenting.com.

Q: Bullying. Depression. Anxiety. Substance use. It’s overwhelming for a parent. What are some of the warning signs I should look for?

A: The best thing you can do is be as involved in your child’s life as possible! You need to be able to identify behavior changes. Has there been a change in the way your teen is interacting with you or others? Are they hanging out with a different group of friends, or isolating themselves?

Are their grades in school suffering? Are they no longer interested in the things they’ve always liked, such as sports, clubs, or activities? Has their appearance changed?

Older children may not want to open up and talk about what they are going through, but actions generally speak louder than words. If you notice behavior changes, use a gentle and concerned approach. Assure them that you are always there when needed, ready to listen. If they do admit to using substances, be understanding and help them explore positive coping skills. And, of course, David Lawrence Center is here to support you and your child.

To learn more about DLC’s Active Parenting programs and register for an upcoming session, please visit: www.davidlawrencecenter.org/parentingprograms/.

Click here to learn more about DLC’s #StandUp campaign, which is raising awareness about the importance of youth mental health.

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