Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Talking to Kids About Drugs: How Early Should You Start?

A 2009 government study showed that about ten percent of kids age 12 to 17 use an illicit drug, and the number is probably much higher than that. I can tell you that my brother, who went to high school 12 years ago in the midwest, said that there were kids on his soccer team in his middle class suburb of Columbus, Ohio who were using cocaine and, God forbid, heroin. I'm almost six years older than he is, and I can assure you drug use wasn't that rampant when I went through high school. And it seems to be getting worse!

The truth is that parents can't just have a single discussion with their kids about drugs: they need to have ongoing talks about drugs and alcohol with their kids from the time the kids are young. So, how young is too young? Don't start talking to your kids about drugs and alcohol until they're about seven or eight. It's only when kids reach this age that they can truly understand when you talk to them about serious issues. Yet once they reach second or third grade, start talking about these issues with them.

Each time you discuss the issue, don't be overly dramatic: You don't have to sit them down, shine a lamp over their head, and speak in a cryptic voice. You simply tell them that drugs and alcohol is a subject they'll start hearing more about as they get older, and that using such substances gets people into trouble and makes them feel unhappy. Keep the discussion short - no more than a few minutes - and check in with your child again every month or so on this issue.

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