Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to Talk to Your Children About Drugs & Alcohol

It’s a harsh reality in today’s world that teenagers are turning to drugs and alcohol in record numbers. It has become commonplace for kids to have some friends over and celebrate with six-packs when their parents go away for the night. Even more disturbing is the fact that teenagers are using drugs – marijuana, cocaine, and others – and that this has become socially acceptable or expected in some young social circles.

I remember my younger brother telling me when he was in high school that some kids on his soccer team were using cocaine. This is hard to imagine given how young and impressionable kids are – they have their whole lives ahead of them!

It is critical that you have open conversations with your children about drugs and alcohol. The $64,000 question: How do you do this? In a nutshell, you do it gently and honestly, without resorting to threats or ultimatums. Never tell your children “If I ever catch you using drugs or alcohol, so help you God!” You want to convey your message with seriousness but you shouldn’t say something that will turn you into the monster.

Sit your kids down and ask them if they know kids who use drugs or alcohol. Don’t begin with an interrogation of their own behavior – “So do you use them?” You must approach this topic gently. Ask them how common this stuff is at parties in high school and ask them why they think drugs and alcohol are so popular. Give them a chance to talk and simply listen in a nonjudgmental manner. Remember that this is a two-way conversation - not a trip to court.

Tell your children why you worry about kids, in general, using drugs or alcohol. Tell them that they have the rest of their lives ahead of them and that sometimes kids make bad decisions when they are intoxicated. You don’t need to overplay the illegal card – your kids know what is illegal. Here is the most important part: Tell your children that you want them to come to you if they ever find themselves in a situation where there is drugs or alcohol around, or where they have gotten into trouble themselves. Tell them you would rather they call you and get you out of bed at night than call someone else.

Explain to your children that life is hard and that growing up involves all kinds of decisions that are not always easy to make. Peer pressure is a challenge for kids, so talk to them about whether they have felt peer pressure before. In the end, talking to your children about drugs and alcohol is really an opportunity to remind your children that you are on the same team and that you want the absolute best for them.

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