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Talking to Younger Kids about Drugs

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Younger children are not immune to drugs and alcohol. You may be the best parent in the world, or you may have the best kids; but, at some point and time, they will cross paths with drugs (illicit or otherwise). You have to decide today when you would rather discuss the topic with your kids – now, before something has happened, or later, after a dangerous situation has already occurred.

Talking with your kids does not have to be a huge monumental moment. In fact, most children will respond better to smaller, simple, and casual conversations rather than one dramatic “talk”. Your kids are introduced to drugs slowly over time, starting with the very first time they take fever or cold medicine. Wouldn’t it be better to establish your perspective just as simply?

So, what is the best way to talk to your children? How do you have those casual conversations along the way? It really can be effortless; you simply start with what you know and where your kids are.

Toddler to Second Grade

It may seem amazing to even have a conversation with your child about drugs at this young of an age, but there is honestly no better time to lay the framework. As soon as your child has to take an over-the-counter or prescription medication, start the conversation. Introduce the word drug to your child. Teach them that they only time they are to take any sort of medication is when it comes from you or another trusted adult (your spouse, grandparents, the doctor, etc). This is a great time to instruct your children on the healthy benefits of using medication appropriately.

But, don’t let your conversations stop there. Take advantage of any opportune moment as they arise. If you are riding in a car and your child sees a billboard for cigarettes, mention the dangers of smoking. If you watch TV or read a book together, and you notice a character mentioning medication, drugs, or alcohol, use that teachable moment to talk about it. As your child matures, you will be surprised at the direction they may take conversations. Just remember to be honest but keep your answers simple at this age. They do not want, nor do they need, to know the adverse reactions of a chemical dependency. They just want some time with you and want to learn what you know.

Third through Sixth Grades

Children in this age are beginning to truly listen to the world around them. They are starting to take the advice of their friends or classmates and you will begin to see the world around them influence them; however they are still willing to listen to you. It is crucial you keep the lines of communication open through these years. As you have conversations with your children, do not be afraid to ask them what they know about drugs. Leave the questions open-ended and be sure not offer an opinion too quickly. Allow your children to voice their own thoughts and then talk about them together.

As the outside world will begin to influence your child, use that to your advantage. If you see a segment on the news, or hear on the radio, about a celebrity or sports figure having problems with drugs or alcohol, ask your child their opinion. It may seem awkward or difficult to talk with your nine year old about the latest athlete’s steroid use, but it will be more difficult to talk with them after they or their friends have attempted to use steroids. During these years, you want to establish conversations as a habit and let your child know they can have complete trust in you.

Talking with children of younger ages is critical. These formative years will help shape the opinions your child will rely on for years to come. This includes their opinion on whether you as their parent can be trusted for honest advice. So, don’t wait until your children have been exposed to drugs; reach them early. You may just save their life.

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