Today on our Fox 5 Ask the Moms panel (video below), a difficult question was asked about how to talk to our kids about drugs, in particular as they relate to celebrities going to jail, getting in trouble, and, in some situations, losing their lives. Before last week, I had never talked to my kids about drugs and alcohol. But when they saw my reactions to news of Cory Monteith’s tragic death, and then, a few days later, after the news of my friend Hunter’s death, the heavy-hitting questions began and I realized there is no time like the present to begin talking to them about this subject. But where to start? Well, I started with their questions, answering them as honestly and as simply as I could.
“What are drugs?”
“They are something you take that can make you feel weird and not act like yourself.”
“Do they taste good, Mommy? Is that why he took them?
“Some people might think so, but no, they don’t. And most importantly they are really bad for you.”
“Why do people take them then if they don’t taste good?”
“Sometimes people don’t like who they are so they want to feel like something else.”
“Well that’s sad that people don’t like themselves.”
“Yes, it is.”
With that, the conversation ended, thankfully, because that’s about all I could take.
Over the weekend I spent some time reading up on how to broach this subject with my kids and found some helpful tips on kidshealth.org. The article I read breaks down the advice by age categories. Kids pre-school to 9 years old need one form of communication on the subject, where as tweens need another, and teens, another. The article (in fact several articles I read), recommend role playing with your kids when they get to be in that tween age range. For example, Mom pretends to be a friend saying “hey, my parents are out of town, let’s raid the alcohol cabinet.” Then see if your tween can come up with a response to casually get out of that situation, like, “I have to get up early for dance class,” or, “let’s go play with the Wii instead.” It seems silly to me as I type that to actually act out those scenarios with my kids, but like the saying goes, practice makes perfect, so if they practice getting out of those situations, they might just be able to do it when the real time comes.
I also learned of a class that is offered via a teen recovery center called Pacific Treatment Services that is for parents who want to learn how to talk to their teens and how to handle their at-risk behavior. Though my kids are not teens yet, I am glad to know this type of facility exists.
In all of my research, the biggest take-aways were that building a strong foundation of acceptance, trust and communication with your kids is key. As the article in Kids Health states, “no parent, child, or family is immune to the effects of drugs,” which is why that foundation is so important.
Here is our segment on Fox 5 with more info on specifically how to talk to our kids about celebrities and role models who abuse drugs.